Category Archives: Peace Corps

Miami Update

Matt and I are in Columbia, SC, officially on the home stretch of the trip. Last night we met with supporters in Miami at Miami-Dade College. Below is a long awaited picture of Matt and I:

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Miami was especially exciting because in many ways it served as “phase 2” of the ServeNext engagement process. Let me explain.

In March, Aaron, Zach, Matt and Patrick (Schmitt, former National Field Director for ServeNext) had a retreat in Miami, during which time they had a roundtable with the start up team at City Year Miami (about 10 people). The meeting was similar to the ones Matt and I have had throughout the tour. And what we saw yesterday was the ServeNext citizen-advocate movement beginning to grow. Instead of only City Year representatives, we had the opportunity to speak with AmeriCorps VISTAs, other AmeriCorps programs, such as Public Allies, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and a handful of citizens who heard about the event through word of mouth. 

Through a diversified constituency and broader coalitions, we’re able to build strength in numbers. We had a chance to see this strength in Miami, and we look forward to seeing similar action networks throughout the country. We’ll have an update on Columbia and Atlanta in the coming days. Stay tuned!

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Change/Wire highlights Peace Corps, Teach for America…

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Be The Change, Inc.’s (BTC) Change/Wire blog highlighted a couple National Service-related items today:

To get the latest from our friends with BTC, follow them here on Twitter! 

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BlogNext: CT leads Congress on National Service…

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BlogNext, the official blog of ServeNext.org, has a couple posts on Congressman Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and their focus in recent days and weeks on National Service.  If you’re from the great State of Connecticut (specifically from the Bridgeport area, which Congressman Shays represents), you should be very, very proud. 

Check ’em out!

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Chelsea Clinton serves, talks about importance of public service on the stump…

PRNewsFoto/REBUILDING TOGETHER

Chelsea Clinton has attended a couple service events while campaigning for her mother this past week.  In the above photo, she is seen volunteering last Saturday with Rebuilding Together in Delaware County, Indiana.  The organization was celebrating its 20th annual National Rebuilding Day. 

On Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, Clinton spoke to volunteers at an event with Hands On Charlotte about her mother’s belief in public service. 

Chelsea Clinton said volunteering is very important to her family. Her father, former President Bill Clinton, started AmeriCorps. Her mother wants to start a Green Corps program that would promote environmental projects while helping volunteers earn money for college or other efforts.

“My mother believes that so much of what we do in public service is so critical to our social life and to our future as a country,” Clinton said.

The service event was organized by America Forward, a non-partisan coalition organized by New Profit, Inc. that includes more than 60 results-oriented, entrepreneurial nonprofit organizations with programs operating in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Together, these organizations serve more than 10 million people per year and have a collective budget of more than $300 million. 

Specifically, America Forward proposes scaling National Service, which includes:

  • A tiered approach to AmeriCorps funding that reflects the stages of organizational development, including a tier that allows long-term successful programs to work in partnership with the Corporation to grow and reach new communities
  • Social entrepreneur start-up fellowships for national service alumni to enable promising AmeriCorps alums to put their ideas for solving community problems into action
  • Increased emphasis on social entrepreneurship in Learn and Serve America and Senior Corps programming

Click here to learn about America Forward’s policy ideas around National Service.

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AP: “Sacrifice: An American Virtue”

AP article from a couple days ago entitled “Sacrifice: An American Virtue on Rebound.”  The whole story is worth a read, here’s some excerpts including an interview with Kelly Ward, the director of America Forward, and a history lesson on U.S. President’s calls to sacrifice from Washington to Bush.

What does sacrifice mean to Kelly Ward? Ask the 27-year-old Harvard graduate and she’ll first argue that she’s not personally familiar with the concept. Ward runs America Forward, an alliance of public service organizations dedicated to the principle that most of the nation’s problems are being solved somewhere — often by small, community-based nonprofit groups using innovative methods that government could support or copy.

“This isn’t a sacrifice because I believe in what I’m doing. I’ve found what I was created to do, which is to do my part to change the world,” Ward says while sipping coffee a few blocks from her Cambridge, Mass., office. “OK, I could make more money, sleep a lot more and have a personal life had I gone into a different line of work. But how’s this a sacrifice?”

Nearly every American president has urged citizens to serve the country and each other. George Washington stated in his farewell address, “You should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness.” In his famous “man in the arena” speech, Theodore Roosevelt said the conduct of every citizen matters to the health of the republic. Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Depression to give desperate men new jobs and eroded land new trees. John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps.

“On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country,” Kennedy said in 1961, “I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete.”

And then there’s George W. Bush.

In his State of the Union address after the 2001 terrorist strikes, Bush challenged Americans to commit at least two years “to the service of your neighbors and your nation” and created one of the largest service initiatives since FDR’s CCC. But after the war with Iraq came, he went silent on service.

Which brings us back to Kelly Ward, the 27-year-old do-gooder, taking her Ivy League education and putting it to use battling the nation’s ills, even as she questions whether this represents any real sacrifice.

She is part of an uplifting cultural trend: Young, highly educated, highly motivated people are bringing their best-business practices to the world of national service — fighting bureaucracies, lobbying government and spending money like venture capitalists to address the nation’s most vexing problems. They call themselves social entrepreneurs, and you can find them in the most desperate corners of America.

In many ways, Ward and her peers are more like the Greatest Generation than their parents’ Baby Boom generation.

“This is the next reform generation,” says E.J. Dionne Jr., a Washington Post columnist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively about public service. “The metaphor I think about are the people who started out in service work in settlement houses before the turn of the last century.”

Settlement houses offered social services — food, shelter and schooling — for the urban poor and immigrants buffeted by the industrialization of America. Jane Addams was the founder of the settlement movement in America; she spoke of and to young and affluent Americans who yearned to make a difference, and find meaning in their lives.

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious, is floating in midair, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life,” she wrote a century ago — speaking for her own generation and another in the distant future, one that hungers to pull together and help one another, to sacrifice and to serve.

The question is whether they’ll be forced to continue to do so on their own, or whether the next president will lead them.

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President Bush sends off Peace Corps volunteers, commending them for carrying on “the best traditions of American citizenship”

Photo by M. T. Harmon, Office of Public Affairs, Corporation for National & Community Service

Katie Saraiva (OH AmeriCorps ’07), who coordinated our National Service Express Tour event on Monday night in Providence, Rhode Island, was the first to report this event to ServeNext.  Thanks for the tip, Katie! 

President George W. Bush yesterday called the Peace Corps “the best foreign policy America could possibly have” as he celebrated National Volunteer Week at the White House, honoring Americans who give of their time to help the less fortunate and create impact in communities at home and around the globe.   

During an East Room ceremony, President Bush recognized 33 Peace Corps trainees preparing to leave for Guatemala and thanked them for dedicating their lives to serving others. This tradition of hosting Peace Corps volunteers for a formal White House send-off before the trainees leave for their service has been continued by every sitting President since Richard Nixon.

“I believe strongly in the admonition, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ Those of you here today are living up to that noble calling. And you carry on the best traditions of American citizenship,” said President Bush. 

Click here to read President Bush’s complete remarks on the Peace Corps or here to watch the entire ceremony.

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More Peace Corps Campaign

Last week, I attended an event hosted by “More Peace Corps” – a campaign to double the budget and number of volunteers in the Peace Corps.

Nearly 50 folks gathered at The New School in New York City to hear from Kevin Quigley, President of the National Peace Corps Association, and Rajeev Goyal, who is directing this campaign. As everyone went around the room introducing themselves and giving their brief vision for the Peace Corps, it is clear that alums and supporters are enthusiastic about taking action at this critical moment of need and opportunity.

As Sean and Matt travel the country on the National Service Express Tour, they are being met and generating the same excitement. It’s becoming increasingly clear: citizens’ support for service – be it national, international, public, or community – is absolutely incredible. However, now the challenge is to channel it into a powerful voice that can shape discourse in the public square and shape action of our leaders.

It is great to see the Peace Corps community gearing up to engage its community around the country and begin taking action.

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