- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Urging all Americans to donate two years of their
lives to volunteer service, President Bush proposed Tuesday a new homeland
security corps and expansion of the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps programs.
- Bush used an appeal to wartime patriotism
in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to advocate expanding programs that
Republicans had sought to abolish after taking over Congress in 1994.
- His call for Americans to spend two years
performing volunteer work was asking for an unprecedented commitment, in
contrast with his reluctance to seek widespread personal sacrifice immediately
after the attacks.
- "My call is for every American to
commit at least two years -- four thousand hours over the rest of your
lifetime -- to the service of your neighbors and nation," Bush said
in his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
- "Through the gathering momentum
of millions of acts of service and decency and kindness, I know we can
overcome evil with greater good," Bush said.
- He said volunteers in an expanded Peace
Corps would help promote education and development in the Islamic world,
part of an effort to counter anti-Americanism among many Muslims including
militants such as those accused of being behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
- The president's proposed homeland security
corps would recruit retired doctors and nurses who could be called upon
in major emergencies and volunteers to help police and fire departments.
- The homeland security corps would be
joined by the existing AmeriCorps and Senior Corps domestic service programs
under a new "USA Freedom Corps."
- 200,000 NEW VOLUNTEERS
- Bush said he wanted more than 200,000
new volunteers to join AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. AmeriCorps enrollment,
which requires a yearlong commitment, is now about 40,000 a year. Senior
Corp has about 500,000 people serving in part-time volunteer programs.
- The president proposed doubling the number
of Peace Corps volunteers. A total of 7,000 are serving two-year tours
in 70 countries, and doubling it would bring program levels to the highest
since the mid-1960s, when they reached a peak of 16,000.
- "We will renew the promise of the
Peace Corps, double its volunteers over the next five years and ask it
to join a new effort to encourage development, and education and opportunity
in the Islamic world," Bush said.
- "We have no intention of imposing
our culture, but Americans will always stand firm for the nonnegotiable
demands of human dignity: the rule of law, limits on the power of the state,
respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice and religious
tolerance," he said.
- A senior administration official said
Bush hoped to send Peace Corps volunteers to Afghanistan, which has been
the first front in the U.S. led war against global terrorism.
- Harris Wofford, who helped former President
John Kennedy found the Peace Corps and oversaw a broad expansion of AmeriCorps
and Senior Corps under former President Bill Clinton, welcomed Bush's announcement
after watching it in person.
- "People of all ages have been waiting
to be summoned," Wofford told Reuters. "I think he'll get a very
- He cited consistent poll results showing
a high proportion of the population favors mandatory national service.
Any call to action must be backed up by realistic avenues for service,
Wofford added, and he said Bush's proposals appeared to provide them.
- Bush was to discuss the plan in further
detail during a trip to North Carolina and Florida Wednesday, administration