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For Immediate Release
December 20, 2003

President's Radio Address


THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Every year during the holidays, families across America gather to celebrate our blessings -- and we unite to share those blessings with others. Particularly in this time of giving, our thoughts turn to fellow citizens who face hardship, or illness, or loneliness. Their burden often seems even greater at Christmastime, yet the hope of this season was meant for them, as well.

The American people see these needs -- and they are responding, as always, with great generosity. Just this week, a government report found that more than 63 million Americans volunteered over the past year -- about 4 million more than in the year before. On average, volunteers gave 52 hours -- more than a full week of work -- of their year in service to others. This increase in volunteering is evidence of the new culture of service we are building in America, especially among young people.

Nearly two years ago, I created the USA Freedom Corps to continue the momentum generated by the countless acts of kindness we saw after the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. I asked every person in America to commit 4,000 hours over a lifetime -- or about 100 hours a year -- to serving neighbors in need. The response was immediate and enthusiastic, and has remained strong. Over 75,000 service organizations now work with USA Freedom Corps, and a growing percentage of Americans have answered the call to service.

Americans are volunteering in every region of the country, and in nearly every part of the world. Many communities have formed Citizens Corps Councils to train neighborhoods in emergency response. About 50,000 people are enrolled in AmeriCorps, which carries out vital work in education, the environment, and homeland security. And the Peace Corps expanded to over 7,500 volunteers in 2003 -- the highest level of participation in almost three decades.

Every time I travel in America, I have the honor to meet some of our country's most dedicated volunteers. They include people like Phuong Nguyen, a high school student in Denver who gives hours of her free time to lead service projects for the American Red Cross; and Ana Cooper of Miami, who helps senior citizens with daily needs like grocery shopping; and Bill Sellers, an 83 year old man from Houston who has dedicated almost half his life to feeding the hungry. Some of the men and women I have met are members of the armed forces, who volunteer time in their communities on top of their service to the nation. And next week, I look forward to helping a generous group from Virginia distribute Angel Tree gifts to children whose parents are in prison.

America's 63 million volunteers are setting a fine example for our nation. They are meeting essential needs in their communities -- and they know the fulfillment that only comes from serving a cause greater than self. And many volunteers got started in the same way: because someone asked them.

This holiday season, I ask every American to look for a challenge in your own community, and step forward to lend a hand. You can learn about thousands of service opportunities by visiting the USA Freedom Corps website, Many Americans volunteer with their families, allowing them to spend time together while improving the lives of others. And if you find a need that no one else is meeting, you might want to start a group of your own.

The high level of volunteerism in our country is encouraging -- though not surprising. America is a compassionate and generous land. With their good works, volunteers are living out the spirit of this season. And year round they are showing the heart and soul of our people -- which is the greatest strength of our nation.

Thank you for listening.


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