"The era of big government may be over, but the era of big challenges for our nation is surely not. Citizen service is the main way we recognize that we are responsible for one another. It is the very American idea that we meet our challenges not through heavy-handed government or as isolated individuals, but as members of a true community, with all of us working together."
-- President William J. Clinton, April 5, 1997
Service as civic responsibility. To make the forces of the 21st Century work for us, not against us, we must restore an ethic of citizenship and civic responsibility through service -- not as a form of charity or an alternative to government, but as an essential part of what it means to be an American.
Systematizing service. Citizen service should be neither isolated nor random, but systematized throughout our society and expected of all Americans. Government -- and in particular organization such as AmeriCorps -- can play an important role in achieving this goal.
Engaging young people in service through AmeriCorps. While today's challenges require something of all of us, it is especially important that young people take leading roles in shaping their own futures, and gain the sense of citizenship that service helps to provide. That is why the President created AmeriCorps. It is also an important reason for the Summit's focus on young people.
AmeriCorps: the basic bargain of opportunity and responsibility. The President often says that one of his proudest moments was creating AmeriCorps. During the last three years, 50,000 young AmeriCorps participants have earned college tuition by serving their communities -- from rehabilitating housing to protecting our environment, from immunizing poor children to helping them learn to read -- with the basic bargain of getting the opportunity to go to college in return for giving something back to their friends and neighbors.
AmeriCorps: reviving the spirit of service in America. The success of AmeriCorps shows that service can help to meet our most pressing social needs, from renewing our cities to protecting our environment, from helping children learn to read to giving them mentors and someone to look up to. That service often leads to more service -- a typical AmeriCorps member trains or recruits a dozen or more community volunteers. AmeriCorps -- and even larger numbers of Senior Service Corps and student volunteers -- have helped revive the spirit of service in America.
The Presidents' Summit: mobilizing citizen power. From April 27-29, in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, President Clinton and President Bush will convene the first Presidents' Summit for America's Future, with the support and leadership of the Corporation For National Service and AmeriCorps, the Points Of Light Foundation, Summit Chairman General Colin Powell and Vice Chairs Henry Cisneros and Lynda Robb. The Summit's goal, like that of AmeriCorps, is to mobilize America's citizen power into a united effort to solve our common problems -- especially those that threaten our young people.
Participation from all sectors of society. Leaders from a broad spectrum will come to the Summit with commitments in hand, concrete pledges of support and volunteers to solve their local problems. In preparation for the summit some of our most prominent corporations and service organizations have already stepped forward.
An unprecedented bipartisan Summit. Every living former President will attend or send a representative. We hope this will serve as an example that there are common national values that unite us all. The idea of service is such a value.
A special focus on children, to help prepare them for the 21st Century. No task facing is more crucial than preparing our children for the future. To do that, we must help our children and families overcome the challenges of society today: the burdens of illiteracy and poor health, the lure of tobacco, alcohol and drugs; the need to acquire the tools to succeed in a global economy. That is why the Summit will have a special emphasis on service aimed at America's children.
In preparation for the Summit, the President has already:
- Announced a new National Week of Service (April 13-19), with AmeriCorps and Peace Corps alumni engaging young people in service across the country;
- Called on all states to make service a part of high school and middle school education;
- Launched his National Service Scholarships, offering $1,000 scholarships (half provided by the government, half by local civic groups and businesses) to help students who perform outstanding service pay for college;
- Highlighted a recent Brandeis study that shows that when you begin to serve at a young age, schoolwork improves and there is a good chance you will keep serving in years to come.
Federal agencies have made important commitments to service as well. For example:
- The Navy has committed to tutor or mentor 700,000 young people.
- The office of the Drug Czar is working with community organizations to train 200,000 young people to be leaders in anti-drug efforts by the year 2000.
- Federal agencies have committed to expand from 1,500 to 2,000 the number of schools they have adopted or have partnerships with.