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Reason 11 to Vote Obama: Engage the Country

Last week, Senator McCain and Senator Obama put politics aside to speak at a September 11th forum on national service. Since national service is in the news, it seems like a good time to highlight Obama’s plans to expand opportunities for people to make a difference in their communities, their country and the world at large:

  • Expand Corporation for National and Community Service: Obama will expand AmeriCorps from 75,000 slots today to 250,000 and he will focus this expansion on addressing the great challenges facing the nation. He will establish a Classroom Corps to help teachers and students, with a priority placed on underserved schools; a Health Corps to improve public health outreach; a Clean Energy Corps to conduct weatherization and renewable energy projects; a Veterans Corps to assist veterans at hospitals, nursing homes and homeless shelters; and a Homeland Security Corps to help communities plan, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
  • Engage Retiring Americans in Service on a Large Scale: Older Americans have a wide range of skills and knowledge to contribute. Obama will expand and improve programs that connect individuals over the age of 55 to quality volunteer opportunities.
  • Expand the Peace Corps: Obama will double the Peace Corps to 16,000 by 2011. He will work with the leaders of other countries to build an international network of overseas volunteers so that Americans work side-by-side with volunteers from other countries.
  • Show the World the Best Face of America: Obama will set up an America’s Voice Initiative to send Americans who are fluent speakers of local languages to expand our public diplomacy. He also will extend opportunities for older individuals such as teachers, engineers, and doctors to serve overseas.

Integrate Service into Learning

  • Expand Service-Learning in Our Nation’s Schools: Obama will set a goal that all middle and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year. He will develop national guidelines for service- learning and will give schools better tools both to develop programs and to document student experience. Green Job Corps: Obama will create an energy-focused youth jobs program to provide disadvantaged youth with service opportunities weatherizing buildings and getting practical experience in fast-growing career fields.
  • Expand YouthBuild Program: Obama will expand the YouthBuild program, which gives disadvantaged young people the chance to complete their high school education, learn valuable skills and build affordable housing in their communities. He will grow the program so that 50,000 low-income young people a year a chance to learn construction job skills and complete high school.
  • Require 100 Hours of Service in College: Obama will establish a new American Opportunity Tax Credit that is worth $4,000 a year in exchange for 100 hours of public service a year.
  • Promote College Serve-Study: Obama will ensure that at least 25 percent of College Work-Study funds are used to support public service opportunities instead of jobs in dining halls and libraries.

Invest in the Nonprofit Sector

  • Social Investment Fund Network: Obama will create a Social Investment Fund Network to use federal seed money to leverage private sector funding to improve local innovation, test the impact of new ideas and expand successful programs to scale.
  • Social Entrepreneurship Agency for Nonprofits: Barack Obama will a create an agency within the Corporation for National and Community Service dedicated to building the capacity and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector.
  • The above is just a summary. There is a nine page plan linked from Obama’s website.

    What I especially like about these plans is how they tie into other important issues. The Clean Energy Corps proposal ties into his plans for freeing America from dependence on foreign oil. The Classroom Corps would directly tie into his education plans. The America’s Voice Initiative ties into his ideas on foreign policy AND helps fight the stereotype that all Americans are monolingual.

    This isn’t proposing make-work, this is harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of Americans to help meet very real needs. It is a concrete form of patriotism much more important than wearing a flag pin. It is a love of country that builds the nation. And that’s what I want to see blossom next January. If you agree, vote for Barack Obama for President on November 4th.

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    2 Responses

    1. Obama and his organizers seem oblivious to how much of this is already in place–to create one more gov’t agency to “own” it is beyond silly and wasteful, it’s downright scary. Yesterday I read in USAToday that 187,000 have been in the Peace Corps since. . .get this. . .1961! That’s about 4,000 a year. Paltry when set next to what Mennonites, Mormans and Methodists have done and countless non-profits and volunteer activities. This is the bully on the playground wanting to take over and say he’s in charge. I’m guessing churches sent at least 187,000 to LA and MISS after Katrina!

    2. Note: Original comment has been modified to reduce/eliminate snarkiness.

      Hi Norma,

      I don’t find expanding federal volunteer service to be scary. Neither does John McCain, who also proposes to expand federal volunteer opportunities. I think both candidates recognize that there is always more room for more volunteers. I happen to believe that Obama has the better and more specific plan for expanding service opportunities, but I appreciate John McCain’s commitment to the subject.

      Additionally, while the groups you mention do good work, as does the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I think there is value in having non-sectarian volunteer opportunities available.

    Comments are closed.

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