THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:
I am pleased to transmit for your immediate consideration and enactment the "National and Community Service Amendments Act of 1998." This legislative proposal extends and amends national service law, including the National and Community Service Act of 1990 and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973. It builds upon the long, bipartisan tradition of service in our country, which was renewed in 1993 when I signed the National and Community Service Trust Act creating the Corporation for National Service.
Service to one's community is an integral part of what it means to be an American. The Presidents' Summit for America's Future held in Philadelphia last April reinforced the role of programs supported by the Corporation for National Service as key vehicles to provide young people with the resources to maximize their potential and give back to their communities. Citizen service is also at the heart of our efforts to prepare America for the 21st century, as we work to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to make the most of their own lives and to help those in need.
My Administration's most important contribution to citizen service is AmeriCorps, the national service program that already has given more than 100,000 young Americans the opportunity to serve their country. By tying opportunity to responsibility, we have given them the chance to serve and, in return, earn money for post-secondary education. In community after community, AmeriCorps members have proven that service can help us meet our most pressing social needs. For example, in Simpson County, Kentucky, AmeriCorps members helped second graders jump three grade levels in reading. In Boys and Girls Clubs, AmeriCorps members are mentors for at-risk young people. Habitat For Humanity relies upon AmeriCorps members to recruit more volunteers and build more houses. In communities beset by floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, AmeriCorps members have helped to rebuild lives and restore hope. AmeriCorps members are helping to mobilize thousands of college students from more than 800 college campuses in our America Reads program. In all of these efforts, AmeriCorps brings together people of every background to work toward common goals.
Independent evaluators have reviewed AmeriCorps, National Senior Service Corps programs, and Learn and Service America programs and have concluded that national service yields a positive return on investment. The proposed legislation that I am transmitting builds on our experiences with national service to date and improves national service programs in four ways: (1) by codifying agreements with the Congress and others to reduce costs and streamline national service; (2) strengthening partnerships with traditional volunteer organizations; (3) increasing States' flexibility to administer national service programs; and (4) expanding opportunities for Americans to serve.
Since the enactment of the National and Community Service Trust Act in 1993, and particularly since 1995, my Administration has worked with constructive critics of national service to address their concerns and improve the overall program. This proposed legislation continues that process by reducing the Corporation's average budgeted cost per AmeriCorps member, repealing authority for redundant or obsolete national service programs, and making other improvements in the efficiency of national service programs.
National service has never been a substitute for the contributions made by the millions of Americans who volunteer their time to worthy causes every year. Rather, as leaders of volunteer organizations have often expressed, national service has proven that the presence of full-time, trained service participants enhances tremendously the effectiveness of volunteers. This proposed legislation will strengthen the partnership between the national service programs and traditional volunteer organizations; codify the National Service Scholarship program honoring exemplary service by high school students; and expand the AmeriCorps Challenge Scholarships, through which national service participants can access education awards. It also will authorize appropriations for the Points of Light Foundation through the year 2002.
The National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 explicitly conceived of national service as a Federal-State partnership. The Act vested significant authority in bipartisan State Commissions appointed by the Governors. I promised that we would accelerate the process of devolution as the newly created State Commissions expanded their capacities. This proposed legislation fulfills that promise in a variety of ways, including providing authority for the Corporation for National Service to enter into Service Collaboration Agreements with Governors to provide a means for coordinating the planning and administration of national service programs in a State.
This proposed legislation will also provide additional service opportunities. By reducing the cost per AmeriCorps member, it will enable more people to serve; it will broaden the age and income guidelines for National Senior Service Corps participants, expanding the pool of older Americans who can perform results-oriented service in their communities; and it will simplify the administration of Learn and Serve America, so States and communities will more easily be able to provide opportunities for students to learn through service in their schools and neighborhoods.
This past January, I had the opportunity to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by engaging in service on the holiday commemorating his birth. I joined 65 AmeriCorps members and more than 300 community volunteers in repairing and repainting Cardozo High School in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Thirty-one years ago, Dr. King came to that very neighborhood and urged the people there to engage in citizen service to rebuild their lives, their community, and their future. That is what those national service participants, and the thousands more who were participating in similar projects across the country, were doing -- honoring the legacy of Dr. King and answering the high calling of citizenship in this country.
Each of the more than 500,000 participants in the programs of the National Senior Service Corps and the 750,000 participants in programs supported by Learn and Serve America, and every AmeriCorps member answers that high calling of citizenship when they make and fulfill a commitment to service in their communities. This proposed legislation builds on the successes of these programs and improves them for the future.
I urge the Congress to give this proposed legislation prompt and favorable consideration.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, March 19, 1998.
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