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

Senate To Debate Serve America Bill Monday Afternoon

Update, April 21, 2009: President Obama signs the Serve America Act into law. To take effect October 1, 2009.

The office of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) — who is managing the bill — says that the Serve America Act will go to the full Senate Monday likely at 3 p.m. EST. Debate could last days.

Voices for National Service, Service Nation, and Serve Next urge proponents of the Serve America Act and national service to contact their senators today or Monday morning, to let Senators know where they stand.

Read the joint Press Release issued on the Serve America Act this week by Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Enzi (R-WY), Hatch (R-UT) and Mikulski.

You can watch the debate live on CSPAN.

Read the amended Serve America Act approved by the Senate HELP Committee.

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Senate HELP Committee Authorizes the Serve America Act

Update, April 21, 2009: President Obama signs the Serve America Act into law. To take effect October 1, 2009.

The Senate’s companion bill to the GIVE Act (which passed on the floor of the House yesterday) successfully moved out of committee yesterday and will likely be voted on by the entire Senate membership next week.

In the Senate yesterday, the Serve America Act (S.277) was unanimously approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Similar to the GIVE Act, the Serve America Act seeks to expand national service and volunteer programs, to engage citizens in solving problems facing communities throughout the country.

In his State-of-the-Union-esque address to Congress last month, President Obama specifically asked congressional leaders to pass the Serve America Act introduced by Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Hatch (R-UT). (Read also his TIME Article from today, calling for a “New Era of Service.”)

Read the joint press release (PDF) issued yesterday by Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Enzi (R-WY), Hatch (R-UT) and Mikulski (D-MD).

Read the amended Serve America Act (PDF) approved by the Senate HELP Committee.

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Senate Hearing Today on the Kennedy-Hatch Serve America Act

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Shirley Sagawa

Update, April 21, 2009: President Obama signs the Serve America Act into law. To take effect October 1, 2009.

March 10th at 2:30 p.m. EST, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing on S. 277, the bipartisan Serve America Act, introduced by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

Witnesses will include:

According to a statement released by Acting CEO of CNCS Nicola Goren, witness statements will be available when the hearing starts and the hearing will be streamed live over the Internet and archived for future viewing.  To watch, look for the Audio/Video Link on the HELP Committee Hearings page at 2:30 pm EST/11:30 am EST.

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Kennedy-Hatch Serve America Act

Update, April 21, 2009: President Obama signs the Serve America Act into law. To take effect October 1, 2009.

Friday, Sept. 12, Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced new legislation called the “Serve Amerca Act” to expand national and community service opportunities. After the bill was introduced in the Senate, it was referred to the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The legislation will seek to expand the number of national service participants to 250,000 (175,000 more than can be currently funded).

Themes include expanding opportunities for people to serve at every stage of life, and to use service to meet specific national challenges like natural disaster preparedness and response, high school drop out prevention, energy conservation and environmental stewardship, and health care and more jobs access for people with low-incomes. It includes the creation of a reserve corps of national service alumni who can be mobilized in the wake of a natural disaster.

The act seeks specific opportunities to serve for students, working adults, retirees, and “Americans of all ages.” A new benefit for older participants would be an education award transferable to grandchildren. Currently AmeriCorps members must use their Eli Segal Education Award on their own tuition or student loans.

The bill, if passed, would support social entrepreneurship through establishing a commission to look at cross-sector solutions to social problems, and to apply effective business practices in the nonprofit sector by establishing venture capital funds to increase its talent pool and efficacy.

Finally, the bill seeks to expand Volunteers for Prosperity, which fosters short-term international volunteer opportunities for United States professionals to serve in developing countries.

(The information here is a summary of a press release from Senator Kennedy‘s and Senator Hatch‘s offices.)

Update from the Service Nation Summit, Sept. 12, 2008:

Orrin Hatch officially announced the new Serve America Act bill this morning at the Service Nation Summit and spoke touchingly of his work with Ted Kennedy “across the aisle.” The senators have worked together for a long time and Hatch’s affection for his friend was obvious and endearing. (Senator Kennedy was convalescing at home.)

In a statement that drew enthusiastic applause, Hatch announced that both Senators McCain and Obama have signed on to co-sponsor the legislation! Other co-sponsors include Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), RPCV Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR). To the bi-partisan crowd gathered for the Summit, all supporters of national service, the support of both Presidential candidates means a lot. Hopes are high for national service and the next administration.

In an interview with Hatch after his speech, he addressed a question about the cost to government of national service. The bill, he said, “should please those who are concerned about cost.” He cited the relatively low cost of supporting trained volunteers compared to the cost of allowing high schoolers to drop out, and ignoring young people who have lost their role models to prison and worse fates. Further, according to Hatch, elevating these youth, educating them, and connecting them with job skills will serve the economy well, as will the creation of jobs, including in the energy industry.

Read the Press Release.

Read the executive summary of S.3487, The Serve America Act.

Read the entire bill (PDF) written by Emma Vadehra.

Read the opinion piece by Senators Kennedy and Hatch in TIME Magazine.