For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 30, 2002
President Celebrates USA Freedom Corps Six-Month Anniversary
The East Room
Initiative in Focus: USA Freedom Corps
2:08 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks. Thanks for coming to the White House. Welcome, and thanks so very much for your good works and your commitment to serve others.
I -- today I'm going to announce some new steps that the USA Freedom Corps will be taking to make service a more central part of American life. I want to thank Gale Norton, a member of my Cabinet, the Secretary of the Department of Interior, for being here. I appreciate one of the newest television stars, Bob Dole -- (laughter) -- being here. Thank you, Senator. (Applause.) And it's good to see my friend, Steve Goldsmith, who's the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Corporation of National and Community Service; and its CEO, Les Lenkowsky. Thank you all for being here, as well.
I appreciate the many foundations and organizations who are represented here today that have supported the Corporation for National Community Service, the Network for Good, which is a nonprofit organization. It has been a strong supporter of our call to service from the very start. I want to thank the Walt Disney Company. I appreciate so very much the U.S. Department of Justice for sending representatives here. I want to thank the UPS Foundation. I want to thank Peggy Conlon, who is the President and the CEO of the Ad Council. I want to thank the members of the Ad Council who have done some pretty good work, as you'll see here in a minute.
I appreciate very much the USA Freedom Corps Volunteer Network members who are here. I want to thank the representatives of television, print and radio, as well.
You know, none of us would ever wish the evil that was done on September the 11th; yet out of the tragedy can come great good. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. Out of the evil done to America will come some good. Challenging times test the character of individuals, and test the character of our nation. In the aftermath of September the 11th, Americans have responded with courage and compassion, with great resolve and determination.
The last ten months have offered us a glimpse of what a new culture of service can be. And we're not going to let this moment pass. We'll sustain and extend the best that has emerged in our country. And there are good reasons for every American to serve our nation. We serve because it's important to our neighbors. We understand that serving others meets needs that a government can never fulfill. You see, government can hand out money, but it can't put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. The need for kindness, and for understanding, and for love, is not a government function. It's a human function. And that's why we serve our neighbor.
We serve because it's important to our own character. Acts of compassion add direction and purpose to our lives. Serving something greater than yourself in life is part of a fulfilling life. And finally, we serve because it's important to our country. Our nation is the greatest force for good in history, and we show our gratitude by doing our duty. We express our love for America by loving Americans.
Six months ago in my State of the Union address, I issued a call to service. I asked every American to commit at least two years, 4,000 hours over the rest of your life, to service for neighbors and our nation. To encourage service, we established what we call the USA Freedom Corps, ably headed by John Bridgeland.
The USA Freedom Corps is matching potential volunteers with local charities. It is encouraging participation in the new Citizen Corps, AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Peace Corps. We're promoting service to prepare for crises at home, to strengthen our communities, to help people in need, and to extend American compassion throughout the world.
The response to the call to service has been strong, and it can get stronger. VolunteerMatch, a group that matches volunteers to charities on the USA Freedom Corps web page, reports that referrals have increased by more than 70 percent over last year. (Applause.)
I want to thank my fellow Americans for answering the call to service, because Americans in record numbers are now being directed to local service opportunities. Since the State of the Union address, more than 66,000 people have requested applications for the Peace Corps -- 66,000. Applications to join AmeriCorps are up by nearly 90 percent. More than 45,000 Americans have signed up to participate in the new Citizen Corps. And visits to the Senior Corps web site have increased by almost 60 percent.
Individuals and nonprofit organizations and businesses have stepped forward to offer pledges and new commitments and ways in which citizens can meet the two-year call. Businesses are offering employees annual paid leave to perform community service. I think it's a movement that's just beginning here in the country, and I want to thank those corporate leaders who understand that responsibility not only to shareholders is important, but responsibility to communities in which they exist is equally as important.
We're looking for ways to make service count positively in getting a job. In other words, corporate America views that as an important part of a complete employee. Promoting service is really what corporate responsibility means.
The United States Congress is also meeting its responsibilities. Congress is providing $25 million this year to support Citizen Corps so that Americans can be trained in emergency response, and can support first responders. Good progress is being made to renew the promise of the Peace Corps, and double the number of volunteers over the next five years.
I hope Congress will soon pass, so I can sign into law, the bipartisan citizen service act, which incorporates many of the principles to strengthen and reform national service programs. It should be an interest to members of Congress that all 50 governors also have urged Congress to strengthen these important programs. Congress needs to act, for the good of service for the United States.
Since January, this nation has made tremendous progress in serving others, yet I full recognize more needs to be done. Today I'm pleased to announce a public service advertising campaign, developed with the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Ad Council. This campaign rests on a single, simple principle: Everyone can do something.
And today I'm pleased to unleash the TV ads. It's a private showing, first of its kind. (Laughter.) This is one part of an effort that includes radio and print and the Internet. To support Americans who will respond to the call to service, we are launching the new USA Freedom Corps Volunteer Network, which is the most comprehensive volunteer clearinghouse ever. The network connects Americans to service opportunities throughout more than 50,000 organizations, including America's Promise and the National Mentoring Partnership, the Points of Light Foundation, SERVEnet and the United Way and VolunteerMatch.
This network is now accessible through the newly redesigned USA Freedom Corps web site, USAFreedomCorps.gov. If you want to serve in a soup kitchen or mentor a child in your local community, call up the web page and you can find out where to go. If you want to take a full year and serve in the Senior Corps, America Corps, this is where you can find opportunity to do so. If you want to help people overseas through the Peace Corps or other organizations, USAFreedomCorps.gov will tell you what's available.
You know, one of the main reasons people give for not volunteering is that no one has asked them to do so. I'm asking. (Applause.) Another reason is they don't know where to start. This public service advertising campaign will ask Americans to serve and, through the USA Freedom Corps web site, they have a place to start.
These ads are important to America. And I urge television networks and major affiliates and radio stations and newspapers to run them. By broadcasting these PSAs, they promote the common good for our nation. By broadcasting these PSAs, they will help show the world and our fellow Americans that, out of the evil done to our country, can come some incredible good.
It's now my pleasure to play four new public service announcements featuring some fine Americans. I'm not sure Mariano Rivera is an American citizen, but he's a fine New York Yankee. (Laughter.) Angie Harmon, John Glenn, and Bob Dole. So now we'll watch the PSAs.
(Videos are shown.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank you all for coming. I hope you enjoy a little reception we're throwing for you at the State Dining Room. But, in the meantime, thank you for your love for the country. Thank you for helping people in need. May God bless your work, and may God continue to bless America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 2:20 P.M. EDT