Talking AmeriCorps with Rep. Norm Dicks and SCA founder Liz Putnam

A special event was held at the University of Washington in Seattle on September 29th. Co-sponsored by the Student Conservation Association (SCA), North Cascades Institute (NCI), and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, an informative, interesting, and inspirational presentation on the Legacy of Conservation in the Northwest drew over 150 participants. In attendance were AmeriCorps members and alums, student conservation activists, national park staff and volunteers, elected officials, and a variety of environment, conservation, and citizen engagement supporters.

This is the centennial year of Senator Henry Jackson, who was honored for his thirty plus year legacy of supporting legislation leading to establishment of wilderness areas, national parks, and the Youth Conservation Corps. A panel of three students did their research, interviewed guest speakers, and gave their own presentations. Retiring Congressman Norm Dicks, of the 6th Congressional District, spoke about Senator Jackson and his own conservation legislative achievements and battles. He also mentioned the importance of AmeriCorps in the environment and conservation movement, as well as in other community areas.

SCA founder, Liz Putnam, shared her fascinating history of bringing young people into the conservation of national parks, urging today’s young people to become active in solving the community challenges they saw and never giving up. She said the conservation movement was strengthened when AmeriCorps joined as a partner.

Son of Senator Jackson and Newspaper Editorial Page Editor, Peter Jackson, talked about his father’s conversion into the conservation movement, while mentioning how AmeriCorps gives young people an opportunity to serve. He is a former member of the Washington State Commission on National and Community Service. Jay Satz, SCA Executive Director, summed up the evening by urging young people to get involved in their communities and the environment, and acknowledged that AmeriCorps was one way to accomplish that.

At this inspiring event, I interviewed Cong. Dicks and Liz Putnam. Cong. Dicks, whose daughter-in-law is an AmeriCorps alum, voiced his strong support for AmeriCorps, which he considers one of the greatest organizations for serving the country. He continues to fight for funding in Congress and urges citizens who care about protecting and growing national services programs to meet with their congressional members and voice their support and concerns. He advised that constituents should build bi-partisan support by talking with both Democrat and Republican congressional members and their staff to let them know how important AmeriCorps is in their communities.

I had to wait in line to talk to Liz Putnam. She moved us all to action with her tale of being an undaunted young woman in the late 1950’s, who took on the male dominated Congress and National Parks Department, pressing them to allow young people to help with maintenance and save the deteriorating parks. She says it’s the American way to see a problem and then act on the solution. Liz thinks anyone who cares about our country and the environment should let their congressional members know what’s important, like AmeriCorps, just as she did. She thought that the one million new jobs petition was a great way to add more opportunities for young people to serve their country in constructive ways.

What a positive experience this was. I left feeling we could accomplish anything we committed to doing.

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