Bush Asks Americans For
2 Years Volunteer Service
By Randall Mikkelsen

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."
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 good response."
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 officials said.

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