Editorials & Opinions
The latest editorials and opinion pieces about the importance of service.
"Two years ago today, President Obama signed into law an historic piece of legislation, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The Act, which earned broad bipartisan support in the US Congress, authorized the largest increase in support for national service since the Great Depression. Most notably, in recognition of the need to expand service opportunities for Americans across the country and to build the capacity of local and national service organizations, it called for AmeriCorps, our country's flag-ship national service program, to triple in size from 75,000 to 250,000 over nine years."
"Every night in America, at least 107,000 veterans sleep on the streets. Very few Americans know that one out of every three homeless adults has served in our military -- often during times of war. This means those who have served in defense of our country make up a disproportionate share of those who fall into homelessness. This is unacceptable."
"The recent passing of former Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver gave us all a somber reminder about the power and beauty found in serving others. Shriver, who helped create the Peace Corps, understood that the desire to serve neighbor and nation is a fundamental human need. Importantly, he also grasped the notion that service programs achieve the greatest good for the most people when they are implemented as smart, coordinated systems."
"We have let the concept of service become dangerously narrow, often associated only with the military. This allows most Americans to avoid the sense of responsibility essential for us to care for our nation—and for each other. We expect and demand less of ourselves than we should."
"You may be wondering why the former chief of staff for Gov. Sonny Perdue and a lifelong conservative is cheerleading for the federal investment in national service. For me, the answer is easy. It’s smart. It works. It’s a great bang for the taxpayer dollar and it makes it possible for hundreds of thousands of Georgians to do what we do best — take care of our neighbors. I am pleased that our new governor agrees."
"Democrats in Washington say the nation needs more jobs. Republicans say the economic stimulus isn't working fast enough. We have a simple, low-cost, bipartisan solution to both complaints: fully fund the law expanding national and community service."
"President Obama has signed a law that will create an array of volunteer opportunities for Americans of all ages and will add 175,000 volunteers to AmeriCorps and four new national service corps programs – tripling the current number of annual AmeriCorps volunteers by 2017. But nonprofits, hit hard by the global economic slump, in many cases are not equipped to handle the coming influx of well-intentioned helpers."
"A little more than a week ago, President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law. The $5.7 billion bill will more than triple the size of the domestic volunteer group AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000, with a focus, among a long list of goals, on increasing education, helping the needy and improving energy efficiency across America."
"A great way to give to America is to give to its people. That's the laudable goal of the bill President Obama signed recently, tripling the size of AmeriCorps. The legislation increases the program to $5.7 billion over the next eight years and allows young people to earn college tuition while helping others."
"Congress has now passed the most comprehensive national and community service legislation in our history. The "quantum leap" to engage millions more Americans in serving their country has eluded prior generations. Finally, service has its moment in this perfect storm of hope."
"This was a monumental week for our country. On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, creating the largest expansion of national service in our country's history. This bill will provide opportunities for an entire new generation of young Americans to engage in meaningful public service. At a time when so much around us is in crisis, it is more important than ever that we inspire and encourage young people to serve."
"We've seen it time and again, that simple urge to lend a helping hand. From holding open a door to stopping for a stranded motorist to returning a lost wallet, the ways we help are individual and impromptu. In times of national crisis, such as the Sept. 11 attacks or the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, our generous impulses are magnified many millions of times. The outpouring is astounding, amazing and affirming."
"The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act was passed by Congress and will be signed into law by President Obama soon. One provision of the act triples funding for AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 people. I am proud to say I am a member of service nation and would like to share part of my story as an AmeriCorps worker in 2002."
"For all the political and economic storms buffeting the White House, one thing President Barack Obama has the unquestioned ability to do is inspire idealism. It is that gift the president is calling upon as he looks to greatly expand the national service pool, a group that grew dramatically in the months following his election – three times the number of online applications to AmeriCorps from the same period a year earlier."
The Republican Editorial, April 24, 2009
"They've cleaned up parks, tutored and mentored inner-city students and helped write grants for community non-profit agencies. They're 75,000 AmeriCorps volunteers who have dedicated themselves to improving community life across the nation."
"Today, more than 600 students, faculty, staff and administrators from Cathedral Preparatory School will take part in the school's first Erie Area Outreach Day."
Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial, April 23, 2009
"There's nothing like a really good idea to change the tone in Washington and prove that bipartisanship is not an impossible dream. In a break from all the party-line votes already this year, Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the Serve America Act before their spring recesses. President Barack Obama signed it into law on Tuesday."
"When the going gets tough, the tough. . .volunteer. Congress deserves credit for approving a very broad expansion of national service programs. The move will open the doors to millions of volunteers eager to make a difference."
Boston Phoenix Editorial, April 22, 2009
"People often claim Massachusetts is out of step with American values. Assuming one of those values is serving our communities, we are actually ahead of the curve."
"The recently enacted Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act is in keeping with the spirit of our nation by making it easier for Americans to volunteer for national service, a hallmark of our country. This legislation was named in honor of Senator Kennedy and had strong bipartisan support in Congress because it helps foster our sense of community and shared responsibility for one another."
Troy Messenger Editorial, April 21, 2009
"Putting “deeds to needs.” That’s how President Obama described the AmeriCorps service program, which tripled in size thanks to a $5.7 billion national service bill signed by the president on Tuesday."
The Republican Editorial, April 21, 2009
"The first major piece of legislation filed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy since he was diagnosed with brain cancer is poised to be signed by President Barack Obama this week. And fittingly, the measure that will bear the senator's name has been near and dear to his heart since Jan. 20, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy issued a plea to all Americans to serve their country."
"In Maryland and across the nation, there is increased awareness and interest in volunteering and giving back. But many don't know where or how to get started. Now, there is a new way. In one of the most sweeping overhauls of the country's national service programs since the 1960s, Congress has passed and sent to President Barack Obama for his signature a bill that is expected to drastically increase the size and scope of AmeriCorps, the government's largest volunteer organization and the domestic equivalent of the Peace Corps."
"High school and college graduates are facing a depressed job market. Many baby boomers are facing early retirement. But what they will have is plenty of opportunities for public service - tutoring kids, weatherizing homes, working in nonprofit agencies."
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Editorial, April 10, 2009
"Now that President Obama is back from overseas, he shouldn't waste any time signing a bill that is expected to triple the size of the AmeriCorps national service program to 250,000 over the next eight years."
"Service is an important lesson in citizenship for all Americans, especially young adults. Understandably, when Americans think of national service, military service first comes to mind. While citizens’ service in our volunteer military is critical to the security of our nation, there are other ways that young Americans can serve their nation, state and/or community. The Peace Corps is one possibility. VISTA is another."
"A vote by Congress last week to substantially increase funding for the AmeriCorps program is very good news for hundreds of thousands of young people who will come to know the benefits of volunteering for their country and its communities."
"The job market for the newly laid off and soon-to-be college graduates is the worst in years. So if you're one of those seeking but not finding work, what can you do? Consider volunteering. It's good for the soul, and, thanks to legislation recently passed by Congress and expected to be signed by the president, it could be good for your finances, too.
"We all know America faces a shortage of jobs. The national unemployment rate hit 8.5 percent in March, its highest point since 1983. But there's no shortage of important work to be done, and the good news is that there are millions of people interested in doing it."
Christine Pelosi, Huffington Post, April 5, 2009
"As storm clouds of cynicism gather over a troubled economy and uncertain world, the Democratic Congress delivers a breath of fresh air: a national call to service that triples AmeriCorps and strengthens our national commitment to the common good."
"When Congress comes back from its two-week recess, members of both parties will be invited to the White House to celebrate what is, in today's context, almost a miracle: the signing of the Serve America Act of 2009."
"With national unemployment high and the economy in a deep recession, expanding national service makes sense. Congress has approved such an expansion, and Tuesday, the legislation was sent to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature."
"Congress recently passed the “Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act,” which will expand the number of AmeriCorps slots from 75,000 to 250,000 by 2017, and increase volunteer opportunities at home and abroad. This legislation takes a critical and concrete step toward advancing President Obama’s call to service for Americans, offering citizens more ways to get involved in their communities and across the world."
Progressive Policy Institute, April 3, 2009,
"...But Congress did have one big post-partisan moment this week. By overwhelming margins (79-19 in the Senate, 275-149 in the House), lawmakers passed the Serve America Act, which would dramatically expand opportunities for Americans to serve their country."
Eric Greitens, St. Louis Today Editorial, April 2, 2009
"As a Navy SEAL, I deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Southeast Asia and the Horn of Africa. On every tour, I have been humbled to serve with incredible Americans from across our country."
"North Iowans and volunteerism seem to go hand in hand. From helping neighbors in need harvest their crops to patrolling parks in the wee hours of the morning, thousands of us lend a helping hand in whatever ways we can. No recognition is sought or needed; it’s just the way we do things around here. In fact, Iowa and neighboring states are among national leaders in volunteerism, according to www.volunteeringinamerica.gov."
Washington Times Editorial, April 1, 2009
"As a teacher and former Peace Corps volunteer who answered President Kennedy's call to service, I am happy that Congress has refocused on national service ("Senate moves to triple Americorps," Web, Nation, March 23). I was proud to support the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act (GIVE Act), the largest expansion of government-sponsored service since the creation of the national service corps."
"An ambitious and timely plan to broaden the work of AmeriCorps now includes a new avenue for military veterans to lend a hand to other veterans, active-duty troops and their families."
"Lost in the budget and bailout crossfire in Washington is a remarkable piece of legislation that won passage this week: a bipartisan measure that gives public service the biggest boost in decades."
"Eleven years ago, I enlisted into the armed forces, taking the first steps down an unexpected path. One important stage of that journey happened three years ago this month. On foot patrol with my platoon from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), I found myself walking down a road in Mahmudiyah, in southern Iraq. We were hunting for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). We found one."
"With the election of President Barack Obama and the current economic crisis that our country is enduring, America is going through changes nationwide. It can be discouraging to see hardships and feel that there is little change one person can make. However, with the consideration of the Serve America Act (S.277) by the Senate, there is a case being made today that one way to fix our country is through widespread citizen service."
"At a time when our country faces great challenges, Americans are stepping forward in record numbers to serve. This week the Senate is considering the Serve America Act, legislation that would reauthorize the programs run by the Corporation for National and Community Service and create a new platform for focusing an expansion of service on the critical problems before us."
Linda Davis, Marin Independent Journal Editorial, March 26, 2009
"This week, the U.S. Senate will consider landmark legislation that would open new pathways for Americans of all ages to serve their country by addressing our country's most pressing needs.
At a time of such economic uncertainty coupled with a new administration, I believe it is imperative that we give our citizens opportunities to help those around them in need, inspiring and equipping them to engage in their communities."
"As an Army officer, I led a platoon of Black Hawk helicopters into combat in Afghanistan. After I was seriously wounded in a helicopter crash while conducting combat operations, I feared my time in service was over. I'm glad to say I was wrong.
Over the next four years, I carried out a new assignment from the military: recovery. After 10 major surgeries and thousands of hours of physical therapy, I was medically retired from military service, with a permanent disability rating.
But in spite of my hardships, I never lost the desire to serve my country. Although I could no longer serve in uniform, I was able to stay engaged through a different kind of service."
"The story of America is the story of selfless service. From the heroes who stormed the beaches of Normandy to the men and women who serve in the Peace Corps, our country has long been defined by our citizens' willingness to enlist into missions greater than themselves.
The Senate this week has the chance to encourage this spirit and dramatically increase Americans' opportunities for service by passing the bipartisan Serve America Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, and Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat."
"An outbreak of bipartisanship, rare since President Barack Obama took office, is occurring in Washington on the issue of national service. A bill to expand opportunities for volunteer service in poor areas is gaining support from both sides of the aisle."
"Nearly half a century ago, President John F. Kennedy called this nation to service. Today, the U.S. Senate has the chance to renew our country's dedication to serving and helping others by not only re-authorizing AmeriCorps, but also bolstering it."
"As this economic crisis deepens at the federal, state and local levels, the demand for critical services is going up while the resources to provide these services are going down. Sadly, nonprofit organizations, which are ground zero for providing services in our community, are struggling to meet the need."
"This week, the U.S. Senate can give final approval to the largest expansion in national service since President Kennedy inspired the creation of VISTA and the Peace Corps."
"Yes: Nation must equip its greatest resource — its people — to fix problems
No: When government organizes public service, it cripples public spirit
Read the arguments in full."
"Minnesotans know what volunteerism means. Ask anyone today along the Red River. High school and college students, National Guard members, and people of all ages who have an ethic of service are working hard to preserve great communities."
"At a time when budgets are shrinking while needs among Americans are only growing, the national service program AmeriCorps may expand to fill in some of the gaps.
After the barrage of bailout stories, along with gloom-and-doom job loss figures, this is good news."
"The nation is close to a major civic breakthrough. By a 321-to-105 vote last week, the House approved an ambitious bipartisan measure to enlarge the opportunities for Americans of all ages and income levels to participate in productive national and community service.
A similar plan is now before the Senate. A favorable vote this week would help speed a worthy initiative to President Obama’s desk."
"AmeriCorps seems headed toward a very welcome boost, a sign of a sea change in federal policy that’s especially welcome in this time of hardships in the American economy. The House recently voted 321-105 to expand AmeriCorps and other national service programs, and a Senate committee has approved a similar expansion. President Obama reportedly is poised to sign the action into law."
"As early as today, the US Senate can give final approval to the largest expansion in national service since President Kennedy inspired the creation of VISTA and the Peace Corps. The opportunity comes just in time: Nonprofit groups around the country are reporting a surge of interest in volunteering, as a rise in unemployed workers meets an increase in human need. AmeriCorps, for one, reported triple the number of applications in February over the same month last year."
"College is increasingly expensive. Jobs are harder and harder to find. And volunteerism, while rewarding, isn't financially rewarding. What are young adults to do?"
"With President Obama’s stimulus package now law, the question on everyone’s lips is, “Will it work?” Will the plan stabilize the economy? Will it create jobs?
There is hope, but there is also uncertainty. One group of Americans who are particularly anxious is young people who will soon graduate from high school and college. What is out there for them in this economy? How do they get their foot in the door? More than ever, the answer is AmeriCorps."
"Every politician speaks glowingly about service to country, but few see national service as an important political issue. The temptation is to dismiss service proposals made by someone in the other political party as trivial or part of some hidden agenda.
When the first President Bush called for "a thousand points of light," Democrats chuckled at the metaphor and saw his calls for volunteerism as an inexpensive way to keep his promise to create a "kinder, gentler nation.""
"Talk of bipartisanship outpaces action these days, as the vote on the stimulus largely broke along party lines. But one bill moving through the Congress, the Hatch-Kennedy Serve America Act, can bring Republicans and Democrats together by finding common ground around what made America strong in the first place - active citizens helping their neighbors. President Obama saw its potential when he singled out the bill as something Congress should get to him quickly."
"To say that the Peace Corps changed our lives, our perspectives, and now our modus operandi as members of Congress, is a sweeping understatement. Serving in El Salvador and in Somalia respectively, we returned to the United States fundamentally transformed."
"How bad are things getting? Beyond the obvious numbers -- 7.6 percent unemployment, 6,600 foreclosures a day -- the depressing indicators keep piling up, each statistic representing more pain and hardship. The United Way saw a 68-percent increase during the past year in the number of calls for basic needs such as food, shelter, and warm clothes."
"Mobilizing our citizenry through national service was a core theme of President Obama's campaign. Yet that clarion call has been drowned out by the wrenching global financial crisis and its attendant recession. Letting this important initiative fall by the wayside would be a mistake because it presents a real opportunity for dramatic and measurable impact."
"During the campaign, Barack Obama proposed tripling AmeriCorps, the full-time community service program, at a cost of roughly $3 billion. John McCain, though less specific, also supported a large expansion in national service."
"President Obama used his Inaugural Address to summon the nation to “a new era of responsibility” and personal engagement to solve the nation’s problems. He set an example by spending part of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday painting walls and furniture at a shelter for homeless teenagers."
"This week, President Obama called upon all Americans to volunteer, to pitch in and give back. We hope that the president is serious about this challenge, because providing more opportunities for national and community service won’t just lift the nation’s spirit, it could help save the economy."
"On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day before his swearing-in, President Barack Obama’s inaugural committee stimulated a more than doubling of volunteer activity around the country."
"We celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. with a great American tradition - volunteer service. King said "everyone can be great because everyone can serve," and every year since Congress passed legislation in 1994, we honor King's holiday as a day of service."
"Today, the nation honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose tireless quest for equality and justice helped to make possible tomorrow's historic inauguration of the first African American as president of the United States. Today's holiday is meant to be a day of national service, a day when a grateful nation emulates Dr. King's sacrifice and service to others so that they may know a better life. It is in that spirit that President-elect Barack Obama has called on Americans to give back by tapping the enthusiasm of the millions who flocked to his candidacy and propelled him to the White House."
"As the nation celebrates the 80th birthday of Dr. King and welcomes the historic presidency of Barack Obama, we remember all the acts of change and sacrifice of those who have contributed to our national pilgrimage to a more perfect union. We remember the foot soldiers of the movements for social justice and we celebrate the every day heroes who combat malaria around the world, serve in our military, teach our children, and build homes for those without shelter. It is exciting to see the dream and vision that Coretta Scott King had for this national holiday come to real fruition in the embrace of President-Elect Obama -- to not just take the day off, but to truly "take the day on."
"Amidst the escalating demand for a federal stimulus package to rescue what seems like a new industry every day (first the financial sector, then autos, then steel), little attention has been paid to stimulating the nonprofit sector."
"As Barack Obama's economic advisers work with Congress, they are turning to weighty academic studies of the Great Depression. But for inspiration, they should also read an Obama favorite: Jonathan Alter's The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope."
"The day before the inauguration is the Martin Luther King holiday, and the president-elect wants it to be devoted to service. Butknows that one Monday of good deeds—even if it becomes an annual tradition when people help each other rather than sit home watching TV—isn't enough. Throughout the campaign, he talked about something much bigger—a new era of civic engagement, with a quarter-million young people helping pay for their education by serving their country at home and abroad."
"The Obama administration may be about to squander a historic opportunity. By all reports, the economic recovery plan doesn't include a large-scale national service program."
Use Service to Address Poverty, by Alan Khazei, Founder and CEO of Be the Change, Inc. and Brittny Saunders, Policy Counsel, Be the Change, Inc.
"We believe that voluntary service by regular Americans can and should be part of a renewed effort to address poverty, a problem that demands immediate action, not only because of its tremendous moral dimensions, but also because of its practical implications."
"With crashing stock markets and soaring unemployment, President Franklin Roosevelt called the Congress into emergency session in March of 1933 to adopt his Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to put jobless young people to work on public lands beset by soil erosion and deforestation."
"If there is one thing both candidates agree on, it is that the next president will have to call on all our citizens for greater sacrifice and service. The ServiceNation Day of Action provided a one-day snapshot of the extraordinary things ordinary people can achieve, especially in tough economic times, to empower service as a key strategy for uniting Americans and solving problems."
"For almost 30 years, the members of Independent Sector, from the AARP to the YWCA, have worked to promote volunteering and civic engagement in America. And now supporters of service have a unique moment in our history, an opportunity to try and establish these ideals as core ideals in our democracy. Consider: both presidential candidates believe deeply in service; post-9/11, Americans (particularly Millennials and retiring Boomers) increasingly want opportunities to serve their communities and country; and national service programs—from City Year to Teach For America to Youthbuild to many, many others—are testing and proving strategies of impact that can be scaled. With your help and continued leadership we can and must seize this moment."
"With both the partisan Democratic and Republican National Conventions behind us, our attention as citizens should turn to issues addressing how we can all help make our country better. Coincidently, another important gathering has just taken place, one that reminds us what Americans have in common: our shared optimism and our shared challenges."
"One thing Barack Obama and John McCain agree on is that each would make a new call for citizen service central to his presidency. Indeed, last night the two contenders were scheduled to appear (separately) at a televised forum to promote greater civic engagement as part of a Sept. 11 remembrance called the ServiceNation Summit."
"Whoever raises his right hand to take the oath of office as President next January will pledge to uphold the Constitution — and will have already promised to make national service a priority for his Administration."
"At a forum at Columbia University marking the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, John McCain and Barack Obama took a break from their increasingly harsh presidential contest to speak with genuine passion about a worthy cause they both share: engaging more Americans in national service."