George and Barbara Bush may be five years removed from their time in the White House, but they continue to speak out in support of American families, communities and volunteers.

The former president and first lady spoke to about 12,000 people Tuesday in the Delta Center as part of Peter Lowe's Success 1998 seminar.George Bush, who served as vice president under Ronald Reagan before winning the presidency himself in 1988, said the transition back to private life after his 1992 re-election defeat was not difficult.

"Life is full, and life is very rewarding for us," he said.

But he said he does miss the "bully pulpit" of the presidency, which allowed him to put the spotlight on people who have volunteered to help their communities.

"There isn't a problem that we face as a nation that isn't being solved in some community . . . someplace across the United States of America," Bush said. "The government is incapable of bringing compassion . . . to solve the social problems that are plaguing our nation."

People can derive an inner pride from contributing to improvements in their families and communities, he said.

"We have an obligation to lend a hand," Bush said. "Any definition of a successful life must include service to others."

What people do with their lives is a matter of values, he said. And the simple truths he learned from his parents - like the importance of being fair, kind and honest - still hold true today.

"There's nothing wrong with a kinder and gentler nation," Bush said.

Barbara Bush, author of a best-selling autobiography and developer of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, said the American family is in serious trouble.

Life today can be hectic as people try to juggle work and family, she said, but the most important job in the world is that of parent or grandparent. And a parent will find great rewards if he turns off the television, puts his arms around his child and reads to her.

"The home is a child's first school, and we are the first teachers," Barbara Bush said. "Don't assume that your children and other family members know that you love them. Tell them, and tell them often."

After people get their families in order, she said, they have a responsibility to help improve their communities.

"It's really just a matter of picking a cause and then taking the action necessary to get the wheels moving," she said. "Nothing is too small or too insignificant."