To celebrate 20 years of AmeriCorps, Voices for National Service published a digital booklet, "I Will Get Things Done for America,” highlighting the impact AmeriCorps has made in hundreds of thousands of lives and communities across the country. Chelsea Clinton authored the foreword, featured below. Read the full digital booklet here.
Service has been part of our American story from the beginning, from the first volunteer firefighters to the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Peace Corps. When my father ran for president, he believed that we needed to address our challenges and build our future together and that national service could be a vital part of strengthening the cords that bind us together as a people, for today and tomorrow. He created AmeriCorps to channel the energy of young people committed to that vision. In exchange for their hard work, AmeriCorps members would receive education awards to make college more affordable, helping develop a workforce for the 21st century.
Twenty years later, we celebrate the many accomplishments of AmeriCorps. Since 1994, when the first class began its service, more than 900,000 Americans have served as AmeriCorps members, contributing more than 1.2 billion hours of service to their communities and our country. These passionate young people have helped their fellow Americans graduate from high school, gain access to health care, transition to civilian life after military service and put their lives back together in the aftermath of natural disasters. Through their service, AmeriCorps members have gained a pathway to college and their first jobs, and developed the skills they need to become leaders across the country.
Given research into the experience of AmeriCorps members and other young people who have chosen to serve, we now know how meaningful, fun and life-changing service can be – for the communities impacted and for those who serve. The results of AmeriCorps members’ service has proven time and again that we are stronger when we work together and when we give all Americans the opportunities to match their talents with their dreams. AmeriCorps continues to help give expression to new generations of young people’s commitment to serve our country and create a stronger future for all Americans.
As I was growing up, my parents instilled in me the importance of giving back to our communities and working together to invest in our future. My family has always believed that encouraging and investing in national service is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. It’s the right thing to do because any American who wants to serve our country deserves the opportunity to do so, through military or civilian service. It’s the smart thing to do because it’s a sound investment: AmeriCorps members gain valuable real-life skills early in their careers and national service has a return on investment of 4-to-1, a ratio that benefits all Americans.
Signing AmeriCorps into law was one of my father’s proudest moments as president. It's one of the reasons I am proud to be his daughter. As my father said at the time and still says today, when we embrace the values of opportunity, responsibility and community together, we are the best of our country. As we celebrate the accomplishments of AmeriCorps and look forward to its next twenty years, I want to thank my father for his vision and all AmeriCorps members for bringing that vision to life every day.
Leading up to AmeriCorps' 20th anniversary on September 12, 2014, we will be featuring stories of service – from those who helped bring AmeriCorps to life 20 years ago, to individuals who have taken the AmeriCorps pledge and dedicated their lives to creating positive change in their communities. Follow stories of service on our blog.