President Obama on Monday said the United States is “a kindler and gentler nation” because of former President George H.W. Bush’s contributions to the field of community service.
Obama made the comments after a White House lunch with the former president, who was in Washington for a ceremony commemorating his Points of Light Foundation, the nonprofit group Bush founded in 1990 to promote volunteerism.
The 5,000th Daily Point of Light was awarded on Monday.
A service member wheeled a smiling Bush onto stage at the White House for the ceremony. Michelle Obama and former first lady Barbara Bush were also in attendance.
“Our country s a better and stronger force for good ... and for that we thank President Bush and his better half, Barbara, who is just as committed,” Obama said. “I am one of millions of Americans who have been inspired by your compassion and commitment … Your vision and example have illuminated the path for so many others … and frankly, the fact that you’re such a gentleman, such a good and kind person helps to reinforce that spirit of service.”
“We are surely a kinder and gentler nation because of you, and we can’t thank you enough,” he added.
During the ceremony, Obama announced the formation of a task force made up of Cabinet officials to identify opportunities for public-private partnerships in support of national service.
The 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award went to Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, whose Outreach Inc. delivers meals to starving children around the world.
In his 1989 inaugural address, Bush famously called community volunteers “a thousand points of light,” and his foundation has since grown into the largest nonprofit in the world dedicated to volunteer service.
Bush, 89, was hospitalized in Houston for nearly two months late last year for treatment of a bacterial infection and bronchitis. He spent some of that time in the intensive care unit before being released in February.