What happened Bush’s call for service?

Young people want to help, but need more support and encouragement.

In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush called on a country of people still reeling from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to dedicate themselves to 4,000 hours of community service in their lifetime. In April 2002 Bush signed the National Service Act establishing USA FreedomCorps, which in addition to expanding the AmeriCorps programs including Volunteers in Service to America and National Civilian Conservation Corps, included broader categories of volunteers.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA serving during the 2001-2002 term, I saw the effect that Bush’s call to national service had on young people. My host organization saw its applications increase from five applications for four positions to over 100 in the course of a year. Many Americans watching the horrific images of people floating down flooded streets and homes and businesses destroyed following Hurricane Katrina expected the president to renew his call to national service. Alas, we are still waiting.

Three weeks ago, Bush announced the budget proposal for the fiscal year that will begin in October. In that outline, the president is proposing to eliminate the AmeriCorps NCCC, allocating only enough funds to graduate a final corps out of service and close the five campuses.

NCCC is a unique program that provides benefits to America, providing for trained, rapid-responding and organized emergency service manpower during natural disasters. NCCC is the only national service organization that was directly mobilized by AmeriCorps to provide relief. Other AmeriCorps workers are on hand.

Researching potential spring break volunteer opportunities in the Gulf Coast region, I came across dozens of organizations of young people looking to help rebuild New Orleans in whatever way they can. Like the young people following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they, too, are motivated by the horrific media images to help out in whatever way that they can. Why is the president denying them the opportunity? Where is that strong call for national service that followed Sept. 11? Our young people are ready; you just need to tell them where to go.

Katie Crumley is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]