PICTURES, VIDEO

Obama honours George H.W. Bush for promoting volunteerism

Former first lady Barbara Bush (left) and first lady Michelle Obama walk into an event honouring the 5,000th winner of the "Daily Point of Light" award in the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 15, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Former first lady Barbara Bush (left) and first lady Michelle Obama walk into an event honouring the 5,000th winner of the "Daily Point of Light" award in the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 15, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
U.S. President Barack Obama (right) stands as former President George H. W. Bush is wheeled to his seat for an event to honour the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award at the White House in Washington on July 15, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
U.S. President Barack Obama (right) stands as former President George H. W. Bush is wheeled to his seat for an event to honour the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award at the White House in Washington on July 15, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Former US First Lady Barbara Bush (left), First Lady Michelle Obama (second, right) and US President Barack Obama walk with former US president George H.W. Bush to an event in the East Room of the White House on July 15, 2013 in Washington. -- PHOTO:
Former US First Lady Barbara Bush (left), First Lady Michelle Obama (second, right) and US President Barack Obama walk with former US president George H.W. Bush to an event in the East Room of the White House on July 15, 2013 in Washington. -- PHOTO: AFP
Former US President George H.W. Bush (left) watches US President Barack Obama present the 5000th Daily Point of Light being presented to Ms Kathy Hamilton and Mr Floyd Hammer in the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 15, 2013. --
Former US President George H.W. Bush (left) watches US President Barack Obama present the 5000th Daily Point of Light being presented to Ms Kathy Hamilton and Mr Floyd Hammer in the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 15, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama and former President George H. W. Bush applaud during an event to honour the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award at the White House in Washington on July 15, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama and former President George H. W. Bush applaud during an event to honour the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award at the White House in Washington on July 15, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
President Barack Obama, right, with former President George H. W. Bush, left, present the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award to Mr Floyd Hammer and Ms Kathy Hamilton, centre, from Union, Iowa, in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Mond
President Barack Obama, right, with former President George H. W. Bush, left, present the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award to Mr Floyd Hammer and Ms Kathy Hamilton, centre, from Union, Iowa, in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Monday, July 15, 2013. Mr Obama on Monday saluted Mr Bush for more than two decades of efforts to push volunteerism and national service, as the Bush family patriarch sat smiling in a wheelchair at a ceremony in the White House.  -- PHOTO: AP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Barack Obama on Monday saluted former President George H.W. Bush for more than two decades of efforts to push volunteerism and national service, as the Bush family patriarch sat smiling in a wheelchair at a ceremony in the White House.

The 89-year-old Bush used the phrase "a thousand points of light" in his 1988 Republican presidential nomination speech to praise the work of volunteer organisations and came back to the theme in his 1989 inaugural address and other speeches.

Bush established the Daily Point Of Light award during his one-term presidency to recognize and promote volunteer work.

"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 - how your vision and example have illuminated the path for so many others, how your love of service has kindled a similar love in the hearts of millions," Mr Obama told Bush.

Bush, who was hospitalised for about two months in late 2012 and early 2013, was rolled onto the podium to sustained applause from former aides, friends, lawmakers, volunteers and representatives of the business community.

The current and former president presented the 5,000th Daily Point Of Light award to an Iowa couple, Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, who are the founders of a nonprofit that has delivered more than 200 million free meals to children in the United States (US) and around the world.

Mr Bush and his wife, Barbara, had lunch with the Obamas at the White House before the event.

"It's like coming home for Barbara and me with the rest of you, just coming to this magnificent house and being greeted by this superb hospitality," the former president said during the ceremony.

Mr Obama also announced the creation of a new task force that will identify ways to expand national service and volunteerism in conjunction with government agencies and to enlist private sector support for national service.

In the past year, the government has created volunteer groups that work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on disaster response and with the Education Department to improve school performance, the White House said.

Mr Obama and Mr Bush were last together in April at the dedication of the presidential library of Mr Bush's son, former President George W. Bush.