WASHINGTON -- Something unusual happened yesterday on former President George H.W. Bush's return to the White House -- Republicans and Democrats were genuinely nice to each other.

It's not something Washington sees much of these days, with senators locked in a bitter dispute over the confirmation process and the White House and Congress unable to agree on hardly any legislation. In the midst of all the fighting, President Barack Obama took time to honor a volunteer service award Bush created 24 years ago.

The ceremony in the East Room celebrated the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award. Bush started the award after his 1989 inaugural address, in which he described Americans serving each other as "a thousand points of light."

"We are surely a kinder and gentler nation because of you," Obama told Bush, sparking a sustained round of applause from the packed room and tears from daughter Dorothy Bush Koch.

The Bush family, which fell out of public favor in the waning days of George W. Bush's wartime presidency, has recently been re-emerging into the political spotlight, which appears more welcoming now that their dynasty is out of office.

The younger former President Bush has been traveling in Africa to work on health projects and promoting immigration reform. His poll numbers are at a post-presidential high.

His brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has written a book on immigration reform and is keeping the door open to a presidential run in 2016. George P. Bush, Jeb's oldest son, is running for statewide office in Texas.

The 89-year-old George H.W. Bush, who just a few years ago parachuted out of an airplane, is no longer able to stand and spoke less than a minute at the White House yesterday. But the 41st president still showed his spark with the colorful socks that are becoming his trademark and the barbs he traded with his son, Neil, chairman of the Points of Light organization.

Bush thanked the Obamas for their hospitality, then turned the floor to Neil, telling him, "Keep it short."

"He may not be parachuting any more, but he's taken up a new hobby and that is he's trying to be a style setter," Neil teased, pointing out his father's red-and-white striped socks. "GQ man, we're calling him, instead of 41."

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