Obama’s Remarks on Signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act

Today, President Obama made the following remarks before signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

Barack Obama on national service

The transcript was released by the Office of the White House Press Secretary. Re-play the signing and hear the speech for yourself on CSPAN.

Thank you.  Please be seated.  Thank you.  Well, what an extraordinary day.  It is good to be here with all of you.

I want to, first of all, thank President Bill Clinton for joining us here today — where’s President Clinton? — (applause) — for his lifetime of service to our country, but also the fact that he created AmeriCorps, and that not only made this day possible, it has directly enlisted more than half a million Americans in service to their country; service that has touched the lives of millions more.

Now, it just so happens that one of those people who have been touched by AmeriCorps was FLOTUS, otherwise known as First Lady of the United States — (laughter) — Michelle Obama, who ran a AmeriCorps-sponsored Continue reading

Pres. Obama and Government Careers

images-4With record numbers of first-time voters and young people backing Obama’s presidency, perhaps a new generation of government workers will not be so hard to recruit after all.

With Baby Boomers retiring in droves over the next decade, fears have been widespread in public and nonprofit sectors that the United States will face a leadership shortage.

Not enough young people have shown an interest in government careers, and in-roads to government careers are not well known. Government has a reputation of being inefficient, less lucrative than business sector work, and very, very bureaucratic. People cite student loans that are just too high, and the need for better marketing of the compelling opportunities available in the government.

“This will not be a call issued in one speech or one program – this will be a central cause of my presidency. We will ask Americans to serve. We will create new opportunities for Americans to serve. And we will direct that service to our most pressing national challenges.”– U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama during a speech given at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs July 2, 2008.

John F. Kennedy inspired a generation of youth to serve through initiatives like Peace Corps. Will a new generation of people — young people and people who are recently discovering civic engagement — be inspired to join the ranks of an Obama-led federal government? What do you think?

If you are considering a career in government — whether you supported McCain or Obama during this election cycle — you should know about these resources:

President-Elect Obama has been particularly clear that his administration will count on the help of people who have supported his candidacy and on those who didn’t. Young people may accept this invitation by entering the government workforce. If they do so with the enthusiasm and turn-out they have shown in his election bid, the looming leadership crisis may fail to materialize.

AmeriCorps Alums Asks You to Take Three Steps for National Service

As a member of the Service Nation organizing coalition, AmeriCorps Alums is asking its members to take three steps in the coming weeks:

1. Sign the Declaration of Service, and join with one million+ Americans to express your support for service
As we pause for reflection on this September 11th, AmeriCorps Alums asks that you spend a moment to reflect on the value of service, and its importance in your life and to America.  And if you find that it carries value for you, as it does for millions of Americans, AmeriCorps Alums asks that you take less than 60 seconds to join with over a million other Americans in renewing the call to service by signing the Declaration of Service.
2. Participate in the ServiceNation Day of Action on Saturday, September 27, 2008
Thousands of communities around the nation will mobilize on September 27, the Day of Action, to demonstrate the impact that service has – and could have – upon our country and the power of citizens to create large scale change.  Over 2,000 events are planned in all 50 states, and AmeriCorps Alums wants you to get involved in your community.  To register or learn more, click here now.
3. View the ServiceNation Presidential Forum on Service
The ServiceNation Summit (September 11-12) included a presidential candidates’ forum the evening of September 11, where Senators McCain and Obama spoke in depth about their views on the role of citizenship and service in post-9/11 America.  We encourage you to watch the recorded highlights of this event to learn more about the candidates’ plans for national service.  To view, click here now.

Paul Light on what the president needs to do to strengthen national and public service

Just in time for the Service Nation Summit, Paul Light of the Wagner Graduate School of Public Serivce at NYU, just published this opinion piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, on what the next president needs to do in order to strengthen both national service and the public service sector.

On a side note, read the Wagner definition of public service, which I am a big fan of:

“The Wagner School sees public service as work that matters, work of public importance – wherever it happens. What does it mean for work to ‘matter?’ At one level, it means that the work of public service has an impact on others, that it touches issues of public concern, that it is motivated more by mission than by money. Public service work also ‘matters’ at another level: those of us who choose public service want our work to ‘matter’ in our lives. We choose public service careers because we want our work to reflect our values; we want careers that satisfy our need to be of service or to transform some part of the world.”

What do you think of Paul Light’s piece? What’s your definition of public service?

Service Nation Summit — Ask your questions

Do you have questions to ask of Senators McCain or Obama about national service?

At the Service Nation Summit Presidential Candidates’s Forum Sept. 11, facilitators will ask questions submitted on the Service Nation web site.

Submit your questions there, but feel free to share your questions here as well!

Ten Times the Peace Corps — and More Peace Corps 100 House Parties

Just in time for the Service Nation Summit, the Brookings Institution released a paper Ten Times the Peace Corps: A Smart Investment in Soft Power by National Peace Corps Association President Kevin F. F. Quigley and Brookings Non-Resident Senior Fellow Lex Rieffel. The premise of the paper is that a giant challenge for our next president is to re-establish good foreign relations, and that for the United States to succeed diplomatically we will need to show the friendlier or “softer” side to our power, and that Peace Corps Volunteers have been one of the best people to showcase that side. Hence, sending more Volunteers out into the field will help us meet our diplomatic goals.

Today, Sept 6, Peace Corps house parties are meeting around the world to re-invigorate Peace Corps. (See below.) The text below I copied from More Peace Corps:

100 House Parties on Saturday, September 6th! As of September 5, 2008, we have 118 parties confirmed in 42 states and 17 countries around the world!  What was originally imagined as a domestic affair has exploded into a global movement.  on September 6th, thousands of volunteers all over the world will convene for the Peace Corps.  If you would like to host a small gathering, it’s not too late!  Please help us reach our *new* goal of 125 parties and gatherings.

Through these parties, we hope to raise money, generate letters to lawmakers and get 5,000 sign-ups on http://www.MorePeaceCorps.org by the ServiceNation Conference on September 11th and 12th to show the presidential candidates that we are serious about doubling the Peace Corps.  What happens after we reach 5,000?  We go for 10,000 by October 14th, the historic anniversary of JFK’s speech at the student union of University of Michigan.

Click here to download a copy of our Organizer’s Toolkit with all the information you need to host your own House Party for MorePeaceCorps.

A huge thank you to all of our hosts!

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Have you hosted a More Peace Corps House Party, or attended? We’d love a report!

Obama, McCain, and the future of national service

Major party candidates and their plans for national service

(Update on 9/11/08: this article from Chronicle of Philanthropy about the two Senators records on national service.)

Whatever you think of Senators Obama and McCain and their political parties, you probably hope that each of them has something valuable to add to the conversation about national service — after all, one of them will be president soon, and service corps alumni stand to fill the looming public service leadership shortage created as the Baby Boomer generation retires.

Register so that you can vote on November 4.

Barack Obama on National Service

Obama’s plan is listed as an issue on his site, and is expansive: tripling AmeriCorps and doubling Peace Corps; creating new service corps on education, health care, clean energy & green jobs, veterans, and homeland security; and engaging baby boomers on a larger scale. Reading the plan, you get the idea that the stereotype of a national service participant will no longer be that of someone young and inexperienced, and in fact, that stereotypes no longer apply. Participants will represent a wide cross-section of the United States, people who come to a term-of-service opportunity for many reasons. Read more on his web site, or download the plan (PDF). (His plan also addresses military service.)

Note that some service corps programs such as Peace Corps are currently shrinking number of participants due to budget restrictions.

Video from Service Vote ’08:

Here is Obama speaking Sept. 11 as part of the Service Nation Summit:

John McCain on National Service

McCain‘s plan has not been easy to track down, though he has been supportive of AmeriCorps, and was the first of the two candidates to agree to speak at the Service Nation Summit. In 2001, he published this article in The Washington Monthly explaining his views on the topic. McCain worked with Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) in 2001 to try to expand national service, but has said that the war in Iraq has pushed these efforts to the “sidelines.” And in 2003 McCain worked to ask President Bush not to cut funding of AmeriCorps. (For some analysis of McCain’s history on the topic of national service, read “Service Interruption” by Washington Monthly‘s Paul Glastris. Also check out Steve Benen on “McCain, Obama, and National Service.”)

Video from Service Vote ’08:

Here is the first part of McCain’s interview on Sept. 11 at the Service Nation Summit: