This afternoon, the House passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (HR 1388) – legislation that launches a new era of service that will give Americans of all ages opportunities to invest through service in our nation’s recovery. This bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.
Chairman George Miller (D-CA):
“History has also shown that in a time of crisis, Americans turn to service and volunteering for healing, for rebuilding, and for hope. The spirit of generosity in the American people is one of the greatest assets of our nation. We see this every single day. In the past week, North and South Dakota has been a state of an emergency, with communities facing severe flooding as the snow melts. And as they have in so many other times of disaster, Americans showed up to help.”
Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ):
“The glue that holds our country together is the voluntary efforts of quiet but determined Americans to do the important work of our community and our society. As we meet here this afternoon there’s a senior citizen volunteering to teach a child how to read. There’s a high school student who’s working in an elder care facility, perhaps reading books to a senior who cannot see. There are people out cleaning parks, people out teaching a new job skill. There are those who are working with our most at-risk youth to prevent them from self destructive behavior, and instead turning them toward behavior that realizes their full potential.”
Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA):
“Iowa experienced severe flooding last June. From the day we heard the flood waters were coming, AmeriCorps, VISTA, and thousands of volunteers were there. I know firsthand the importance of volunteers, which is why I believe this is legislation is so important.”
Speaker Pelosi on passage:
Just one month ago, in his address to Congress, President Obama called upon Congress to pass legislation 'to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations.' Today, The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act is on its way to his desk to become law. I congratulate Chairman George Miller for crafting this bipartisan legislation and for his commitment to getting it passed quickly.
In times of great challenge, Americans always rise to the occasion. In these times, our economy, our health care system, and our schools need the help of the generous Americans who are willing to serve. And in so doing, our volunteers will save lives, heal disease, and create brighter futures for our children.
By creating 175,000 new service opportunities — more than tripling the number of volunteers nationwide, and rewarding those who volunteer with real investments in their education, we are launching a new era of service. This new era of service will create a stronger nation for all Americans.
President Barack Obama:
I congratulate the House on passing the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. This is legislation that will usher in a new era of service in America, and I look forward to signing it into law when I return to Washington.
Because of this legislation, millions of Americans at all stages of their lives will have new opportunities to serve their country. From improving service learning in schools to creating an army of 250,000 Corps members a year dedicated to addressing our nation’s toughest problems. From connecting working Americans to a variety of part-time service opportunities to better utilizing the skills and experience of our retirees and baby boomers. This legislation will help tap the genius of our faith based and community organizations, and it will find the most innovative ideas for addressing our common challenges and helping those ideas grow. But while our government can provide every opportunity imaginable for us to serve our communities, now it is up to each of us to seize those opportunities. I call on all Americans to stand up and do what they can to serve their communities, shape our history and enrich both their own lives and the lives of others across this country.