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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 8, 1994
                            PRESS BRIEFING
                              ELI SEGAL

                          The Briefing Room

1:00 P.M. EDT

MR. SEGAL: Over the years, all of you have heard a lot of ideas and grand plans sketched for the administrations of both parties. But today, we're not going to talk about concepts, we're going to talk about reality. Because, on Monday, the President will swear-in the first members of Americorps, and national service will be formally launched.

From his earliest campaign speeches back in 1991 to his final moments on the stump, candidate Clinton spoke passionately about the need to offer young people a chance to serve their country and earn money for education in return.

In his Inaugural Address, President Clinton challenged America's youth to a season of service. On the 100th day of his administration, Bill Clinton unveiled his national service Initiative in a major address at the University of New Orleans. And last September, only eight months after he was inaugurated, President Clinton signed into law the National Community Service Trust Act, a call to service unmatched in a generation.

The long crescendo, however, was only a prelude to the real beginning that we'll commemorate on Monday -- the symphony of service that we call AmeriCorps. On Monday, here at the White House, the President will swear-in hundreds of Americorps members on the South Lawn; and, simultaneously, thousands upon thousands more by satellite at events small and large, urban and rural, all across the country. These new Americorps members around the country will be joined by nearly half of the governors of the United States from both political parties, and a similarly large and bipartisan group of mayors, educators, business leaders and service heroes. The press advisories that you have will give you more of the details.

We're particularly pleased that on this Monday, 12 Cabinet members will be participating, fanned out at sites literally from coast to coast -- from Boston to Miami to Los Angeles. They, too, are vital part of Americorps as their departments are some of the sponsors of AmeriCorps programs as well -- partners in what we call "the Americorps National Service Network."

But, first and foremost, the official launch of AmeriCorps is meant to honor and inspire the 20,000 Americans of all races, religions, incomes and backgrounds who are going to join in service through Americorps.

In the next three years, as many as 100,000 Americans are going to participate in Americorps. They're dedicated to core American values: First, getting things done to make our streets safer, our schools better, our families healthier, our environment cleaner. Second, strengthening communities, showing how Americans from diverse backgrounds can work together for the common good. Third, encouraging responsibility, teaching young people to take care of themselves, take care of their families and take care of their communities. And, fourth, expanding opportunity, giving the young people who do their part with America's future the new skills and a hand for college.

Americorps is a grass-roots, bottom-up program. The Corporation for National Service works as a venture capitalist in partnership with more than 350 programs in more than 700 communities around the country. These programs have the authority to use their own creativity and their own imagination to meet local needs. But, on the other hand, the obligation to meet national standards for getting things done.

Americorps members are going to get things done all around this country. We're going to be saving babies in South Texas and raising reading scores in Seattle. We're going to be walking the New York Police Department beat in Brooklyn and patrolling Balboa Park in San Diego. We'll be working to reclaim the Gulf Coastline from a boat and the Chesapeake Bay from an army base. We'll be taking seniors safely to the doctor in St. Louis and keeping kids out of gangs in Killeen, Texas. We're going to be building new homes in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and making better parents in Auburn, Mississippi.

Americorps is going to get things done in hundreds of other places around the country. We're not going to solve the problems that took decades to create. We are going to make mistakes -- all startups do. We're going to fall short of some of our objectives -- all bold initiatives do. But Americorps is going to make a difference. And beyond its concrete achievements, Americorps will remind us every single day how ordinary people can join with government and with the private sector to take responsibility for our future.

Hopefully, my friends, Americorps is going to be a memorable experience for all -- Monday is going to be a memorable experience for all Americorps members and the some 2,500 guests we expect here at the White House. But Monday is going to be more than that. It's going to represent a great new adventure to reclaim our country from the twin diseases of apathy and despair. It's going to be a wonderful day, and I look forward to seeing you all on Monday.

Thanks very much.

I'm here to answer questions, and we have packets of information about Monday should you want more information.

Q All summer they've been in pilot programs?


Q And this is the real McCoy.

MR. SEGAL: This summer and last summer we tested out ideas on how Americorps could work this summer. We had up to 6,000 young people working across the United States in Summer of Safety. They did all kinds of things, from projects involving dispute resolution, domestic violence control, the creation of safe havens, community policing. All, again, to show that our young people connecting with police departments and community organizations could get things done. We're real happy with the results. But that, again, was just a summer program -- it was just a little bit more than two months. Now, we're talking about a full-year program. Every Americorps who will be participating, beginning on Monday, will serve at least 1,700 hours a year, and will either be working, again, in public safety or in the areas of health, education, or the environment. They will be getting things done.

Q What's the budget for the year for Americorps? And do the -- does the federal government pay for everything or do these organizations --

MR. SEGAL: First, with respect to the budget, the 1994 figure is $360 million. The 1995 figure is a little bit over -- it's just short of $600 million. We had a substantial increase in the funding for Americorps -- at least in part because of the broadbased support we feel we have on Capitol Hill from both political parties.

The federal government picks up the lion's share of the cost for Americorps, but not all of it. When we were designing this legislation last year, we thought it important that communities be able to show that they are firmly invested in their communities, that they are well perceived, respected and have a following in those communities. So whereas we will take care of responsibility for the educational awards for the young people -- that totals $5,000 each year for up to two -- either before they go to college in the form of scholarship, or after they leave college in the form of loan forgiveness. While we will pay for that completely, young people will also be making the minimum wage stipend; and in that case the local programs need to come up with 15 percent of the minimum wage stipend and 25 percent of the program cost.

We estimate that for every Americorps we're going to have in the field, the local communities need to come up with between $2,000 and $3,000. And we think that will be one important indication of the extend to which communities are supporting the programs.

Q I'm sorry, what did you say that number was --

MR. SEGAL: $2,000 to $3,000.

Q Per person?

MR. SEGAL: Per person -- times the 20,000.

Q There's some concern on Capitol Hill this might be -- nothing but a jobs program. How do you respond to that?

MR. SEGAL: We're going to be very careful on that. National service is not a jobs program. It's not built that way. It is not designed primarily for -- it is not an income-tested program, not a means tested program. It's not for rich kids or poor kids or kids have a that have a 4.0 gradepoint. It is not designed -- while they will get training and they will get skills in the process, the core of this is about their serving their community in exchange for their education. This will not be a jobs program, although the makeup of the people who will serve will be very broad, from those who are high school dropouts who are studying for their GED, to people who have their medical degrees, will all be in Americorps, or eligible to be in Americorps. But it's not at its heart and soul about jobs.

Q How many applicants were there and how did you select?

MR. SEGAL: Again, there are 20,000 who will begin serving before the end of the year. About 15,000 will actually be sworn in on Monday, we expect. There are well in excess of 100,000 young people who have in fact been eager to participate in Americorps. We have in our data base, off our 800 number, in excess of that number now even before our public service announcement campaign begins this week.

We expect the demand to dramatically overrun supply, at least at this point. But frankly as an old marketing person, I kind of welcome that. I think if a lot of people want to serve in this, and if we get our work done, this program will ultimately be one the American people delight in, the Congress will understand it, and you'll understand it as well.

So at this point, there will be more than five young people will be applying for each one of those positions that we'll be filling.

Q And how do you determine who's --

MR. SEGAL: We don't do very much in that at all. That is, we are not, unlike the Peace Corps and VISTA before us, we do not choose the people to serve. It is the programs that we select who in fact choose. We're very much involved as a referral mechanism. That's what the 800 number has done. We make available to the local communities all over the United States what they want. If they want specialists in environmental cleanup, we'll tell them that. If they want people who are college graduates with degrees in community -- in police science, we'll supply them with that.

They've been very, very supportive, these 350 programs of this effort, and we expect out of this national database will be enormously helpful in rounding out and making each Americorps as diverse as we hope they will be.

Q Realizing it's difficult to paint this large a group of people with a broad brush, I'm just wondering what type of people are getting involved. Are these idealistic people? What are they looking for? And what are they going to swear to do when they take this oath?

MR. SEGAL: First, who they are. They're as broad as America. As the President always says, he wants national service to represent the face of America. We have all kinds of kids. It's kind of stunning to think at this day -- and we still talk about the apathy and greed and the cynicism of the past -- that a recent study shows that more than two-thirds of college freshmen are actually volunteering as we speak. This is an incredible reservoir of young people who, I think, want to serve, who will, in fact, serve if given the opportunity.

I'm sorry, what was the second question?

Q What is the oath? You say they're going to take an oath.

MR. SEGAL: They will be pledging, essentially, as Americorps, that they will get things done in their communities, that they will do what they can to fight apathy, and to improve the communities in which they are operating. The President will administer the oath, both here in Washington and by satellite again to something close to 15,000 young people.

Other questions, concerns? Thanks very much.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END1:11 P.M. EDT