Mr. Bush was also shining a spotlight on the vexing issue of how to house — temporarily and then permanently — the hundreds of thousands who lost homes in the storm six weeks ago.
The president of Tammany Parrish, a district not far from New Orleans visited by the president four weeks ago, described Mr. Bush's response as "uplifting."
"I'm beginning to see; I think one of our problems is the stress, as you see what's behind us was that we needed immediate assistance and that's tough," Kevin Davis, the parrish president, told Harry Smith of The Early Show.
Mr. Bush reveled in what he said is a spirit of revival in the battered region.
"I think we've seen the spirits change ... Local people are beginning to realize there's hope," Mr. Bush said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.
Accompanied by first lady Laura Bush, he was pitching in at a Habitat for Humanity site in Covington, La., a town just north of New Orleans where the nonprofit is building houses for displaced people. The Bushes were appearing on "Today," which has been featuring the Habitat project.
Later, on his two-day trip to the storm zone, Mr. Bush was heading to Pass Christian, Miss. Mr. Bush was to attend the reopening of its Delisle Elementary School before returning to Washington.
On Monday, the president sampled some of New Orleans' finest, getting an update from Mayor Ray Nagin and members of his rebuilding commission over dinner at Ralph Brennan's Bacco, an Italian restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter. He then spent the night at Windsor Court, a luxury hotel that hasn't yet opened to the public but made Bush and his entourage welcome.
Other people in New Orleans are having more trouble finding places to stay, reports CBS News correspondent Trish Regan for The Early Show.
Regan spoke with a resident of the city's hard-hit Ninth Ward, which flooded twice, and is now full of wind-ripped homes also destroyed by stagnant water and oil. The woman, returning home for the first time, described seeing her wrecked house as "heartbreaking."
"The rest of my house is across the street," she said. But many residents, like this woman, don't want to live anywhere but New Orleans and are eager for it to be rebuilt. The question remains for many: Where do they stay in the meantime?
The visit was a sharp contrast to Bush's last to the city more than a month ago, when he had to bunk on the USS Iwo Jima docked on the Mississippi River near downtown.