Obama, Bush turn bipartisan focus to volunteerism

President Barack Obama attended a community service forum at Texas A&M University on Friday hosted by one of his Republican predecessors, former President George H.W. Bush.

Obama took the opportunity to emphasize that, regardless of partisan politics, the government can only do so much with the challenges facing Americans.

"We face threats to our health, our climate and, of course, our security that have left many of our young people wondering what kind of future they will be leaving for their own kids," Obama told the audience, which including the former president and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. "Anyone here thinks that our government always has the solutions, President Bush and I will be the first to tell you that you'll be sorely disappointed."

"The government can build the best school, with the best teachers, but we can't run the PTA … we can pass the most comprehensive health care reform bill, but Congress can't be on the ground in our communities caring for the sick and helping people lead healthy lives."

The two leaders met at Bush's presidential library to celebrate almost two decades of work from the Points of Light Institute, which was founded with Bush's encouragement in 1990 to "encourage and empower the spirit of service," according to the group's Web site.

The Institute takes its name from Bush's 1989 inaugural address, where he referenced "a thousand points of light … all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the nation, doing good."

Obama lauded the former president's lifetime of service — from his enlistment at 18 to his community work during retirement — noting that Bush was the first president to create a White House office devoted to promoting volunteer work. The president said Bush's legacy of service affected the life of his own family.

"It's a vision that's changed lives across this country, including that of a young woman who went to work for an organization called Public Allies to prepare young people for public service careers — an organization initially funded by the Bush administration," Obama said. "Here experience there inspired her to devote her own life to serving others, and that young woman happens to be my wife, Michelle Obama."

Obama stressed the community service theme during last year's presidential campaign. He signed a measure in April designed to strengthen national community service efforts by boosting federal funding for thousands of volunteers in fields ranging from clean energy to health care and education. (CNN, 10.16.2009) http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/10/16/obama-bush-turn-bipartisan-focus-to-volunteerism-2/

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