Tuesday, September 24, 2013

WATCH/READ: Sen. John McCain On Senate Floor Honoring "Bill Clinton's Americorps", Civilian National Service

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) gave an inspirational speech on the Senate floor yesterday honoring the 20th anniversary of "Bill Clinton's Americorps" specifically, and civilian national service, in general.

McCain concluded his 6-minute exhortation by saying that "Congress must step up.  With so much division and discord throughout the country today, national service can help bring our country closer together."  The full text is below the video.

McCain notes that 15,000 people in Arizona have served more than 16 million hours in the state through Americorps programs and grants; currently, Americorps reports there are 49 active projects in Arizona with more than 3,300 "participants."

McCain was not always a fan of the Americorps program, though.  For a FLASHBACK to McCain's Senate floor speech before the program's passage, please click here.

Text courtesy of Sen. McCain's website, and is below the jump:


September 23, 2013

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today delivered the following remarks on civilian national service on the floor of the U.S. Senate: 
“On September 11th, we came together as a country on the National Day of Service and Remembrance to honor those lives lost on that tragic day twelve years ago and celebrated the bravery and commitment of our men and women in uniform.
“As our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines continue to defend our freedom and security abroad, Americans back home have also been stepping forward to serve their communities and country.
“Last week brought the 20th anniversary of the signing of legislation that created AmeriCorps.  With that occasion in mind, I rise to speak in honor of the men and women in civilian national service, who have sacrificed their time and energy to serve our country by strengthening our communities. We honor them for their commitment and hold them as shining examples for rising generations.
“Over the last two decades, more than 820,000 AmeriCorps members have quietly and selflessly given in total more than one billion hours of service to our country. In Arizona alone, more than 15,000 residents have served more than 16 million hours and have earned Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards totaling nearly $37 million. They have mentored and tutored schoolchildren – helping students to stay on track with their education and have a chance at a better future. They have helped communities recover from devastating natural disasters, supported military families, and helped veterans overcome the stress of a decade of conflict and re-integrate back into civilian life. They have worked in our national parks and on our public lands that preserve the story of America for future generations. And, so much more. 
“For their dedication and service, they receive a modest living-allowance and an education award that can keep the dream of a college education within reach. They have also earned my respect and the admiration of citizens around the country. 
“As we reflect on the dedication of those who have served, we must also ask ourselves what more can we do to give more young Americans the opportunity to follow in their footsteps. As the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute has called for, we should make a year of national service – whether military or civilian – a rite of passage for all young Americans. We should expand AmeriCorps service positions, as we called for in the bipartisan ‘Serve America Act’ that we passed nearly five years ago. We should strengthen partnerships with federal departments and agencies to use national service as a cost-effective strategy to meet their missions. And, we should work with the private sector – from corporations and philanthropic organizations to higher education and faith-based institutions – to support the creation of service opportunities and to recognize the contributions of those who serve. We should also continue to remain engaged throughout the world by, among other things, fulfilling the promise of the Peace Corps.
“At its founding, America started with a grand notion – the recognition that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights that must be protected. But, recognizing that there are those among us and common causes greater than our own self-interests that require our attention and care, the Declaration of Independence also emphasized, ‘We mutually pledge to one another our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’ Benjamin Franklin likewise talked about creating a ‘Republic, if you can keep it’ and created a corps in Philadelphia through which citizens could serve their community. John Adams likewise spoke of how the duty to serve our country ended but with our lives. 
“Throughout history, presidents – from both parties – put into place initiatives that put our people into productive service to our nation. Examples include Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, John Kennedy’s Peace Corps, Lyndon Johnson’s VISTA program, Richard Nixon’s Senior Corps, George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light, Bill Clinton’s AmeriCorps, George W. Bush’s Freedom Corps, and more recently the passage of the ‘Serve America Act,’ which reauthorizes and expands national service programs.
“Today, Congress must step up. With so much division and discord throughout the country today, national service can help bring our country closer together. Drawing from lessons-learned from the programs of the past, a renewed commitment to national service by this body can unleash the ingenuity of the American people and their desire to contribute to causes greater than themselves. It can channel the energy of the institutions of civil society – all, to get our country moving again. Think of it: passionate, engaged young people from all backgrounds and regions across the nation tackling our toughest challenges in education, poverty, conservation, health, disaster response, re-integrating veterans, and more – in a truly enduring way.
“In my view, nothing else binds us better and has us move forward as a nation more effectively than service to our nation, particularly service designed to improve lives and strengthen communities. For this reason, my vision for civilian national service is worth more than our aspirations. It deserves our commitment to achieving it.    
“Thank you, Mr. President.”

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