"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
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
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
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
- 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
- Federal agencies have committed to expand from 1,500 to 2,000 the number
of schools they have adopted or have partnerships with.