Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.
September 12, 2008
Hello, everyone. It's a pleasure to join you today on "Ask the White House" and to be doing so at the end of a very important week for volunteer service in our country.
America's nearly 61 million volunteers are the driving force that powers thousands of nonprofit, community, and faith-based organizations to improve their services and extend their reach and strengthen their communities.
On Monday the President welcomed thousands of volunteers to the South Lawn of the White House to celebrate the achievements made throughout the past few years that have helped raise the bar for volunteering across America.
Yesterday, as our country reflected on the tragedy of September 11, millions of individuals across the country came together and marked the day in service to others. Together with members of the Presidents Council on Service and Civic Participation we participated in a service project at PS 124 Yung Wing, an elementary school in New York City.
And today, we are together in New York at the Service Nation Summit where hundreds of civic leaders from across all sectors have joined together to envision the future of volunteering and service at home and abroad. So, as I said, it's been quite a week for celebrating and honoring the uniquely American spirit of volunteerism.
With that, I look forward to your questions.
Stella, from Rochester NY writes:
Since then millions of Americans have answered the Presidents call and have helped improve lives at home and abroad
As President Bush said Monday at a White House ceremony recognizing and celebrating volunteerism, the government can pass laws, and make appropriations for important programs like AmeriCorps, but its individuals and communities that show compassion and love and instill hope in ways government cannot. And these are the basic elements of volunteering.
Michael, from Powell, Tn writes:
For instance, Volunteers for Prosperity, which was created by President Bush, matches skilled American professionals with service opportunities in the developing world.
And to help all Americans connect with ways to serve, USA Freedom Corps established the Volunteer Network -- the Nation's largest clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities. Through www.volunteer.gov and 1-877-USA-CORPS, USA Freedom Corps has helped tens of millions of Americans find ways to serve in every zip code and even beyond our borders.
In a program that I am particularly proud of, more than 1.1 million President's Volunteer Service Awards (PVSA) have been given as a concrete way recognizing and rewarding those who have answered the call to service.
President Bush has personally recognized more than 660 outstanding volunteers with PVSAs as he has traveled across America. If you know someone who volunteers and deserves recognition, you can learn more about the PVSAs at: http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/.
Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio
Through nonprofit, faith-based organizations, schools, and community centers, Americans are tackling needs and helping their neighbors everyday.
And even in the midst of this daunting economic cycle, companies are stepping up in new and powerful ways to bring corporate resources to communities both here in the US and across the globe. The Presidents Council, in partnership with many other organizations, has led a new effort called A Billion + Change that calls on the corporate sector to dedicate a billion dollars worth of Pro Bono professional help to nonprofits. The President recognized IBM just this week for their generous $250 million commitment to this initiative. IBM joins many leading US companies who have made generous commitments to make a difference in this innovative and strategic way.
Kerri, from Ft. Lauderdale
In 2006, I was honored to be appointed Chair of the Council. Since then, I have worked closely with 24 amazing, passionate and dedicated individuals who serve alongside me on the Council and use their positions of prominence and influence in their respective fields - representing areas as varied as entertainment, sports, government, the Armed Forces, the nonprofit and business sectors and media - to get things done.
Meghan, from Columbus Ohio writes:
It's great you are looking for ways to get involved, Meghan, there are so many needs to be met and USA Freedom Corps is the place to do it. Visit www.volunteer.gov to find volunteer opportunities and, while you're there, you can check out a new report, Answering the Call To Service.
Tom, from new castle, PA writes:
By the way Tom, research shows that the majority of Americans volunteer through religious or educational institutions. So I would also encourage you to inquire about ways to serve through your local church, synagogue or mosque, or, even at a local school.
Or, just walk around your neighborhood and when you see a need, roll up your sleeves and get involved.
Randy, from Los Angeles, CA writes:
The issue of how to get people with disabilities involved in community service is one of the reasons I am so excited about the pro bono service movement. I would encourage you to look to your skills, professional or personal, and to talk with your employer about how together you can leverage those skills in service. There may be limitations, but there are no limits on the value your service can bring to your community.
For some specific ideas about how the disability community can participate in service, I would also direct you to materials in the resource center of the Corporation for National and Community Service on identifying appropriate activities for volunteers and service members with disabilities: www.nationalserviceresources.org/node/17455.
Now your question is also about how you can get involved in work of the Council. Earlier I mentioned the President's Volunteer Service Awards and the role the Council has in making those awards. I would urge you to look for other people in the disability community and nominate them for the Award. Their example and recognition of their service can be a powerful motivator to others. If you can serve yourself and help us recognize others who serve and help us use that recognition to get more people to serve, you will have made about the greatest contribution to the Council's work we could ask for.
Thank you everyone for joining me here today. I hope I've been able to share with you my own passion for volunteering as well as the great effort President Bush has made on behalf of our country to grow a culture of service, citizenship and responsibility.
I hope too, that you can take away some new ideas about how you can get involved and in turn how you can involve the companies you work for, the neighborhoods you live in and the people around you in making our nation more compassionate, stronger and better equipped to address the challenges of today and the future through service.