REASON 82: President Obama supports increased funding for national service.
We’re voting for Barack Obama because, like us, he believes that we can make our country stronger through national service. We’re voting for him because, like us, he believes that during this economic recovery we should give all Americans the chance to give back and build a stronger nation.
When Matt was the director of AmeriCorps VISTA during the Clinton and Bush administrations, we saw firsthand how service has the power to empower people and lift them out of poverty. After 9/11, Americans had a sense that they wanted to contribute and AmeriCorps programs put record numbers of people in local communities across our country: teaching, starting nonprofits, building houses, and mentoring children and adults. Organizations like Teach For America, City Year, Public Allies, the Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity increased their impact in communities across the nation many times over. The thousands of Americans, young and not-so-young, who joined AmeriCorps inspired us. They made a lasting impact, and if our own experiences with service are any guide, the experience stays with them.
We’ve seen the power of national service in our own small state. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene caused catastrophic flooding in Vermont. Rivers and brooks rose and overflowed, destroying the homes and property of our neighbors and friends. The outpouring of support in the immediate aftermath of the storm was amazing, but for many victims, life never returned to normal. Today, more than a year after the storm, a group of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps members has been in Vermont, working to get still-stranded families back into their homes, build new houses, and repair small businesses. They are young people from across the country receiving a modest stipend and an education award to pay off student loans for their service. Their lives are being changed and they are making a difference in the lives of others.
In 2008, Senator Barack Obama made national service a cornerstone of his campaign. In 2009, standing next to an ailing Senator Edward M. Kennedy, President Barack Obama signed a $5.7 billion spending bill that tripled the size of the AmeriCorps program. "All that's required on your part is a willingness to make a difference," Obama said at the time. "That's the beauty of it; everybody can do it."
The legislation would direct funds to put AmeriCorps members on the front lines: fighting poverty, improving our nation’s schools, addressing energy efficiency issues, improving access to health care, and creating programs for veterans.
Sadly, House Republicans are trying to prevent the full funding of the legislation.
Obama’s opponent Mitt Romney used to say he was a supporter of national service, but who knows where he stands now. He hasn’t emphasized national service during this campaign. We do know where Romney’s vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan stands. On March 29, the House passed a budget resolution from Ryan’s budget committee that eliminates all funding for AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and all of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
In this campaign, President Obama has recommitted himself not just to supporting national service, but also to making our delivery of national service better. He believes in measuring the results of service programs. He also believes in finding innovative and effective ways of delivering those programs.
During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs put Americans back to work. Through the Civilian Conservation Corps, Americans made meaningful change in communities across the nation. We have to redouble our efforts to support national service and allow Americans the opportunity to make America stronger.
We’re voting for Barack Obama because he understands the power of service during these challenging times. We know he will fight until every American has the opportunity to serve our nation.