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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.

Jean Case
Chair of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation

September 12, 2008

Jean Case

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 President’s 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:
Can you tell me why the President called for volunteer service?

Jean Case
Stella, thanks for your great question. In the wake of September 11th, our Nation experienced an outpouring of compassion from those looking to help their fellow Americans in need. Shortly after the attacks, President Bush called on all Americans to serve our communities, our country and our world.

Since then millions of Americans have answered the President’s 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 it’s 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:
I appreciate the President's efforts to encourage us to serve others in any way we can. In what ways, do you think this has happened?

Jean Case
Hi, Michael. People are answering the call to service in many ways. President Bush has fostered a culture of service in our Nation. Over the past few years a new movement of volunteers has been inspired - particularly among younger and older Americans.

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 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:

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Chairman Case: Is the economy having an affect on the Service and Civil Participation programs? Thank You

Jean Case
Hi, Cliff. I’m not an economist, but that's a very good and a very timely question. We’re seeing a record number of applicants in programs such as AmeriCorps and Peace Corps --and I 've always observed that, when our nation is challenged as it was after September 11, 2001, Americans are ready with more generosity and a greater effort on behalf of their fellow citizens and communities.

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 President’s 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 writes:
How did you get involved with the President's Council?

Jean Case
Thanks for the question, Kerri. In my personal and professional life I have always had a passion for service and for the power of volunteerism as an engine of change. While at AOL I helped establish our corporate volunteer efforts and at the Case Foundation we have always supported and invested in organizations that encourage more and better civic engagement. In 2003, President Bush created the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation, to echo his call to service by promoting volunteerism and recognizing American volunteers.

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:
What is the USA Freedom Corps? How can I get involved?

Jean Case
Hello, Meghan. Nice to have you with us. As I mentioned, President Bush created USA Freedom Corps, shortly after 9/11 to help connect Americans with opportunities to serve.

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 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:
What are some suggestions for volunteering?

Jean Case
Thanks, Tom, for a great question. As I mentioned above to Meghan, there's certainly no shortage of need in our world. Nor is there any shortage of opportunity to serve. I encourage you to visit the USA Freedom Corps website and search the Volunteer Network for service opportunities that interest you. However, you could also visit your local Points of Light or Hands On Volunteer Center – or your local United Way.

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:
Dear Jean, As a handicapped individual, how may I personally participate in the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation?


Jean Case
Thanks, Randy. This is such a terrific question.

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:

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.

Jean Case

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.

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