FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 08, 2008
Corporation for National and Community Service
CONTACT: Sandy Scott
President Bush Renews His Post-9/11 Call to Service; Honors the Compassion of America’s Volunteers
Washington DC -- On a sunny afternoon at the White House in front of thousands of volunteer and service leaders, President Bush today renewed the call he made in the wake of the 9/11 attacks for every American to give 4,000 hours or two years of their lives in service to others.
The President gave a broad and passionate speech on the power of volunteers to transform lives and tackle deep-rooted social problems. Recalling the heroism of the first responders and the outpouring of compassion Americans displayed after the terror attacks, the President urged American to rekindle that spirit of neighbor helping neighbor that was so strong after 9/11.
“Volunteerism is strong in the country. But the truth of the matter is, the farther we've gotten away from 9/11, that memory has begun to fade,” the President said. “And my call to people is, there's always a need. You should be volunteering not because of 9/11, but you should be volunteering because our country needs you on a regular basis. And so today I call upon our fellow citizens to devote 4,000 hours over your lifetime in service to your country. You'll become a better person for it, and our society will be more healthy as a result of it.” Read the full speech and White House fact sheet here.
Citing real-life examples of volunteers boosting literacy rates, preventing the spread of HIV, and assisting disaster survivors, the President made clear that volunteers and national service participants are key to addressing many of the most pressing social issues at home and abroad.
The President spoke on the White House south lawn to crowd of 1,800 people that included members of Congress, three cabinet secretaries, members of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation and the Corporation for National and Community Service board, state service commission directors, corporate social responsibility executives, and leaders and volunteers from Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, Citizen Corps, the Peace Corps, and Volunteers for Prosperity.
The event looked at the advances in citizen service achieved over the past seven years and forward at the opportunity to grow service and volunteering in the future. The President recalled his inaugural address, where he asked Americans to be “citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” He concluded by saying “I am incredibly optimistic about the future of our country. And the reason I am is because I've seen firsthand the love and the compassion and the decency of our fellow citizens.”
The President hailed the progress of a new initiative launched by the Corporation and the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation seven months ago to challenge corporate America to deliver $1 billion in pro bono service over the next three years. As of today, companies have already pledged more than $400 million towards that goal, with six new commitments totaling $280 million announced at an event today following the President’s speech. The campaign, newly branded “A Billion + Change”, was also boosted by new Corporation research spotlighting the untapped potential for pro-bono volunteers.
Turning to AmeriCorps, the President noted the Administration’s work to strengthen and expand the program. “AmeriCorps members sign up for one-year commitments with the idea of strengthening their communities by teaching adults how to read or improving health care or helping the homeless put a roof over their heads. This is a good program that was started by my predecessor, President Clinton. After 9/11, we tried to make this program more effective -- in other words, to help the dollars allocated go further. Today, more than 74,000 people serve their fellow citizens through AmeriCorps. I have met AmeriCorps volunteers all over our country and they're very inspiring Americans.”
He went on to highlight the service of AmeriCorps VISTA alum Emily Greene, who served two terms with the Schools of Hope Literacy Project in Madison, Wisc., where she recruited literacy volunteers to help low-performing students. “What a wonderful gift. When somebody says, "How can I help serve America," how about teaching a child to read as a lasting contribution to the future of our country?” Madison's public elementary schools are improving, the achievement gap is narrowing. And Emily, it must make you feel great to leave a lasting contribution, and we are glad you're here on behalf of AmeriCorps.”
Greene, who met the President before the speech, was a little overwhelmed but very excited about the experience. “I am proud to be here representing AmeriCorps and VISTA and my program,” said Greene. “I loved my AmeriCorps service and I wish everybody could do a year of AmeriCorps.”
The President highlighted the success of USA Freedom Corps and related initiatives, including the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, which created the President’s Volunteer Service Award that has been given to more than 1.1 million Americans. He also highlighted the www.volunteer.gov website, which houses the largest clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities ever assembled, with more than 4 million opportunities easily searchable by zip code and volunteer activity.
In conjunction with today’s event, USA Freedom Corps issued a report, "Answering the Call to Service," a comprehensive look at the work of the initiative to improve communities and change lives over nearly seven years under the President's leadership. The report details the response from the millions of individuals who have answered the President's Call to Service and used their power. The report is available at www.volunteer.gov.
The Corporation for National and Community Service improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. Each year the Corporation engages more than four million Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to meet local needs through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs. For more information, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov.