Barack Obama and Bill Clinton appeared together Friday at the White House to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the AmeriCorps national service program during a event where hundreds of new volunteers were sworn in for duty.
There wasn’t much in the way of politics on the agenda, but the former president did get a little plug for his wife, Hillary Clinton, a likely 2016 presidential hopeful.
Clinton said signing the law establising AmeriCorps was one of his proudest achievements. He mentioned the role that community service played in his and his wife’s lives. “We have lived this for a long time,” he said.
Obama thanked Clinton and AmeriCorps members who serve as at more than 25,000 locations from coast to coast.
“AmeriCorps has changed the life of our nation,” Obama said. “And now it's up to us to make sure it continues. Because we're not just here today to celebrate what's already been achieved. We're here to rededicate ourselves to the work that lies ahead. We're here to get things done.”
More than 80 ceremonies were held across the nation Friday. Former President George H.W. Bush participated in a ceremony at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine while former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush filmed a video that will be shown at events across the nation.
Each of the former presidents played a role in forming and growing the program. George H.W. Bush signed the 1990 National Service Act, which created the Commission on National and Community Service and funded national service pilot programs. Clinton proposed and signed the legislation creating AmeriCorps and CNCS and launched the first class of 20,000 AmeriCorps members in September 1994. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, George W. Bush added 25,000 AmeriCorps positions.
“For 20 years, AmeriCorps has been a remarkable force for good in communities across the nation,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps. “The participation of four presidents in this nationwide pledge ceremony is a testament to the value of AmeriCorps and its indispensable role in solving problems, strengthening communities, and expanding economic opportunity.”
Obama announced a newly created program to urge employers — private, nonprofit and governments — to offer opportunities for graduates of AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps, which sends volunteers to other countries. Several employers have already signed on -- Disney, Comcast, CSX, the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity.
Since 1994, more than 900,000 people have served in AmeriCorps, providing more than 1.2 billion hours of service in areas, such as poverty, hunger and disasters. Friday kicks off a year of service for 75,000 AmeriCorps members.