National Service Bill Enacted


Another landmark piece of legislation is about to be signed into law during Obama’s first 100 days.  Implementing this law – named the “Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act” in honor of one of its key sponsors — will be a signature effort over the next few years.


A year-and-a-half ago, TIME magazine featured national service as a cover story, and a year later helped sponsored a bipartisan forum on National Service where both presidential candidates came together and agreed to support a national service agenda, no matter who was elected.  Congress passed the bill last week and President Obama is expected to sign it soon.


The legislation is part of a broader theme President Obama has been advocating around citizen involvement at the community level as well as at the national and international levels.  It also fits his vision of “making government cool again” by making public service – and national service — a desirable option for young people.


Obama is responding to the yearning by the upcoming “civic generation” to engage in communities.  Even sees the trend, where corporations are touting their civic engagement as a recruiting tool for Gen Y workers.


The legislation, according to columnist David Broder in “A Bipartisan Bill Worth Celebrating,” is the product of a joint effort by Senators Edward Kennedy and Orrin Hatch.  Broder notes:  Some of the enthusiasm for this bill can be explained by its subject matter: the array of programs that offer everyone from high school students to senior citizens the opportunity to participate in community and public service projects, either on a full-time or part-time voluntary basis.”


The bill is 142 pages long and not only triples the number of full-time government-subsidized volunteer program, AmeriCorps, to 250,000 slots, but also provides support for non-profit volunteer groups such as local food banks.  It also creates a broad supporting infrastructure, creating state-level commissions on national and community service and encouraging partnerships with schools.


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