House Committee Holds a Hearing to Examine Need for Service

Wednesday morning the House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing “examine the importance of national and community service in meeting critical economic needs” across the country.

According to a press release from the office Rep. George Miller—the chair of the committee—the hearing will focus on “re-invigorating” civic engagement, expanding national service opportunities for young people, and greening the United States with the help of national service programs.

Witnesses who will testify include:

Service Nation Town Hall Meeting

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Moderated by David Gergen, Senior Political Analyst at CNN and advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. In his opening remarks, Gergen says this is the most hopeful movement he’s seen since the civil rights movement.

Participants include Lt Gen Ben Freakley, Vanessa Kirsch (New Profit, Inc.), Mallory Josol (City Year and Jumpstart alum), Michelle Nunn (Hands On Network), Usher (er, well, of Usher!).

Kirsch was part of the founding of Public Allies. Says Eli Segal would be proud of the bipartisan support of national service we have been witnessing during the Summit. Emphasis on public-private partnership. We can actually solve problems with the human capital invested through national service! Teach For America used to be a small idea, and now tens of thousands of top college graduates are applying. Need to scale up national service to meet the desire to serve.

Gergen: how do you mobilize this many people to sign up? (Kennedy and Hatch’s Serve America Act would authorize the funding of 250,000 national service slots.)

Michelle Nunn says Kennedy-Hatch bill includes many different types of service: national service, community volunteering, international service. Coalition includes all sectors, faith-based groups, and more to work together to “make the bill a reality.”

Usher: Youth have always been on the fore-front of change. Youth leaders need a sense of ownership. Incentives may include scholarships. (Soft spoken but then says he’s nervous! Audience cheers him on.) Youth are engaged by leaders who lead example. Not “this is what you should do” but “this is what we will do together.”

Mallory Josol: (She is so young, and so, so well-spoken!) It’s important to have leaders call on youth to serve, but it’s more important to live the example. Youth will answer the call to service if they know about the opportunities. Need is all over the country, youth are all over the country. Josol says she is from a zip code “of need.” You don’t have to be wealthy to serve.

Lt. Gen. Freakley: Programs, civilian or military, offer youth opportunities to serve and to realize their potential. Not organized on the internet! Have to get into social networking! Bring military retirees into the process: they can plan, they can execute, they can train!

Gergen: Where does government fit in?

Kirsch: Middle way. Not about big government or just the private sector. Government, philanthropists both partners. Citizens elevate programs, government invests. AmeriCorps is a network of organizations, succeeding with capital invested from the government. Not “big government.” Most organizations that receive AmeriCorps funding are otherwise private-sector funded for the most part.

Freakley: Move youth from entitlement to empowerment. We adults have given them a sense of entitlement. When they feel empowered, they will serve.

Participant: It’s a religious experience being here. Largest coalition of bipartisan support for service. Serve America Act is an appropriations bill. May compete with labor bill. Can we build an even broader coalition so that we don’t do harm but instead to good?

Participant: The U.S. Public Service Academy be successful? Will it compete with military service academies?

Freakley: Need Public Service Academy to train people to serve in public sector and alumni who can speak out for service.

Harris Wofford steps up to the microphone on the ballroom floor: The reason Kennedy and Shriver were confident that Peace Corps could grow to 100,000 is because the original CCC employed 500,000. AmeriCorps is primarily a nonprofit sector endeavor. Seed funding from government.