April 25, 2002 - Committee on Education and the Workforce: Testimony of Congressman Christopher Shays supporting citizen service

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Testimony of Congressman Christopher Shays supporting citizen service

Read and comment on this statement to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce by RPCV Chris Shays supporting citizen service at:

Testimony of Congressman Christopher Shays*

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Testimony of Congressman Christopher Shays

ďCitizen Service in the 21st CenturyĒ Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Select Education

April 25, 2002

Thank you Chairman Hoekstra and Ranking Member Roemer for your dedication to helping Americans answer the Presidentís call to service by reauthorizing the Corporation for National and Community Service. I also want to thank Congressmen Ford and Osborne for their work on this issue.

As a fiscal conservative, I believe National Service is one of the most productive and cost effective investments our government can make. Through service, Americans of all ages gain a sense of commitment to their communities and their country which will prove valuable for the rest of their lives.

National service benefits both the recipient and the giver. Volunteers not only address an immediate need, they lead and teach through example, and through that example they learn the value of serving and helping others.

I still remember how I felt as a 14 year-old watching the 1960 Presidential election between Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John Kennedy. I felt energized listening to Senator Kennedyís appeal to me and other young people when he spoke of the Peace Corps and making the world a better and safer place. I wanted to be part of his vision.

Years later, that dream was fulfilled when my wife Betsi and I served two years in the Peace Corps.

The same powerful emotion, the same sense of energy, eagerness and anticipation we felt in the sixties, is alive today.

The Presidentís call to service through the USA Freedom Corps is just the right prescription during these times. The best anecdote to terror and hate in society are acts of kindness and service. In calling on all Americans to volunteer 4,000 hours in their communities during their lifetimes, President Bush spoke to our countryís finest traditions of civic duty.

Now itís time for Congress to do its part by reauthorizing the Corporation for National and Community Service.

In 1993 I was thrilled to work with Congressman Dave McCurdy in passing the National and Community Service Trust Act. It was through this Act that the Corporation was created in an effort to connect Americans of all ages and backgrounds with opportunities to give back to their communities and their nation. Nine years later I am grateful to be part of the effort to continue and build the integral programs within the Corporation.

In a little more than one month after the President made his call for Americans to serve, applications to AmeriCorps programs at the Corporation increased by more than 50 percent and interest in Senior Corps programs at the Corporation rose dramatically. For that reason it is important for us to support the principles the President sent to Congress on April 9.

I believe most Americans support efforts to provide service opportunities for 25,000 new AmeriCorps participants, 100,000 new Senior Corps volunteers and an estimated 200,000-300,000 student volunteers at colleges and universities throughout the country.

The Presidentís proposals for a Citizen Service Act are integral in providing the Corporation the tools to be more efficient and effective. They also make tremendous progress in encouraging and supporting those who want to serve their country.

National Service takes place in every community across the country and around the world, by individuals of all backgrounds and ages, supporting organizations large and small. Swift approval of National Service legislation will harness the energy and commitment of those anxious to contribute to their country and provide wonderful opportunities and incentives for them to do so.

I look forward to working with you Chairman Hoekstra, Ranking, Member Roemer and Congressmen Ford and Osborne on this vital issue.

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