President Obama had kind words for former President George H.W. Bush on Monday, calling the 89-year-old as a bright light to help guide the nation.
Bush was at the White House to hand out the 5,000th award from his “Points of Light” Foundation, an event that also honored Bush himself. It was one of the first major public appearances for the elder Bush since a protracted hospital stay late last year.
President Obama credited the elder Bush for starting a national movement to advocate volunteerism and community service, two areas close to Obama’s heart and his background as a community organizer.
“You’ve described for us those thousand points of light — all the people and organizations spread out all across the country who are like stars brightening the lives of those around them,” Obama said at the White House. “But given the humility that’s defined your life, I suspect it’s harder for you to see something that’s clear to everybody else around you, and that’s how bright a light you shine.”
“On behalf of all of us, let me just say that we are surely a kinder and gentler nation because of you, and we can’t thank you enough,” the president added.
Presidents Obama and George H.W. Bush shared lunch before the ceremony, part of what appears to be a warm relationship between the two families.
Obama and George W. Bush actually had a joint appearance in Tanzania earlier this month, commemorating the 1998 terrorist attack on the US Embassy there and honoring Bush’s efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS in Africa. Presidents Obama and George W. Bush also appeared together when Bush opened his presidential library this year.
Though President Obama has been critical of George W. Bush’s policies, his attacks remained civil and within the normal bounds of political positioning.
For his part, President George W. Bush has remained out of the political limelight and avoided publicly criticizing President Obama.