WASHINGTON -- Former President George H.W. Bush returned to the White House Monday, where he presented the 5,000th Daily Point of Light award, an honor that Mr. Bush first handed out 24 years ago.
Alongside President Obama, Mr. Bush commemorated this milestone award, an honor for volunteers who represent “a thousand points of light,” a phrase Mr. Bush first used in his 1988 speech accepting the Republican nomination for president and repeated in his 1989 inaugural speech.
“Volunteerism has gone from something that some people do some of the time to something that lots of people do as a regular part of their lives,” Mr. Obama said in the East Room.
The 5,000th award recipients, Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, created the nonprofit Outreach to deliver free meals to hungry children in the U.S. and 14 other countries. Mr. Obama thanked his predecessor who “illuminated the path for so many others” to volunteer.
“I’m not sure everybody fully appreciates how much this man has done to strengthen our nation of service,” Mr. Obama said of Mr. Bush. “On behalf of all of us, we are surely a kinder and gentler nation because of you and we can’t thank you enough.”
Both presidents have prioritized community service in their work. At the ceremony, Mr. Obama announced a federal task force will facilitate private-public sector communications to better volunteer work that supports national priorities. Earlier in his presidency, Mr. Obama signed legislation to triple AmeriCorps by 2017.
As president, Mr. Bush created the award’s organization, Points of Light; he is the honorary chairman while his son, Neil Bush, is the chairman.
“He still has a strong spirit for service,” Neil Bush said in an interview with CBS News’ Peter Maer on Monday. “Dad doesn’t particularly like talking about legacy, but his own life exemplifies a commitment to service.”
When announcing the first award on November 22, 1989, Mr. Bush explained the Daily Point of Light Awards don’t honor “the best” but are given to those who represent of “the best in all of us.” The staff of the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper was the first honoree.
“We will single out a few, because they represent the many,” Mr. Bush said then. “And we hope that by highlighting their achievements, and the ways they’ve found to serve, we can inspire others to serve.”