Remarks by the President to AmeriCorps, Philadelphia, PA (10/11/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                       (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

For Immediate Release                              October 11, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                               TO AMERICORPS

                               Memorial Hall
                        Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

4:13 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Let's give Ardelia another hand; she was great, wasn't
she?  I thought she was great, good job. (Applause.)

     I also want to say to all of you how grateful I am to be here and how
grateful I am to Pennsylvania's own Harris Wofford for doing such a great
job in heading our Corporation for National Service.  (Applause.)  He's
worked in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps; he's worked for presidents from
Kennedy to Clinton; he worked with Martin Luther King, and he's still
helping people walk their road to freedom.  Thank you, Senator Harris
Wofford, for everything you have done.  (Applause.)

     Eight years ago about this time, I was crossing the country with Vice
President Gore, talking about all the ideas I had to try to change our
nation, if the people would vote for me for President.  Eight years later,
one of the ideas that always got an applause line on the stump, national
service, giving young people a chance to serve their countries in their
communities and giving them some fun so they could further their education.
It is reality.  You are that reality and you have changed America for the
better.  I am very, very grateful to all of you for that.  (Applause.)

     Today, people who wonder what national service is can hear it in the
swing of a hundred hammers helping families to build homes; see it in the
sight of a thousand saplings taking root on a charred mountainside, burned
in a fire; and hear the sound of a million children learning to read.  You
get things done and I thank you for that.  (Applause.)

     It is quite appropriate for us to meet in Philadelphia to reaffirm our
commitment to national service.  Not only because of the extraordinary
effort made by the state of Pennsylvania and this great city to have a
disproportionate number of young people involved in community service
through AmeriCorps programs, but also because it was here that our founders
declared our independence.  And in so doing, expressed a commitment not
only to the individual liberty and independence of all of us alone, but
said that we could only fulfill our own desires and our own personal dreams
if we committed ourselves to forming a more perfect union.

     Every day you work, every person you help, you help America become
that more perfect union of our founders' dreams.  (Applause.)

     All across the country, AmeriCorps volunteers are serving as a
catalyst for community action.  Studies show that every one of you
generates on average a dozen more volunteers, and that adds up.  Over the
past six years, not only have over 150,000 young Americans served in their
communities in AmeriCorps -- and, I might add, we had more AmeriCorps
volunteers in five years than the Peace Corps did in its first 20.  You are
really moving to change America.  But even more than that -- listen to this
-- AmeriCorps members have recruited, trained or supervised more than 2.5
million volunteers in community projects.

     In Pennsylvania, older volunteers for the National Senior Service
Corps serve as foster grandparents to 9,000 children.  Thousands of RSVP
volunteers are passing on their wisdom to a younger generation.  In
Philadelphia, nearly a thousand AmeriCorps members have been working with
local organizations, running after-school programs, restoring parts,
helping Habitat for Humanity to build homes, bridging the digital divide in
poor communities and poor schools, engaging other young people in community

     We know now from experience that when young people volunteer in their
communities they're less likely to get in trouble, and much more likely to
succeed in school.  (Applause.)  That's why the work of AmeriCorps
volunteers with our young people, helping them to succeed, is perhaps our
most important mission.

     In 1996, I issued the America Reads challenge.  I asked AmeriCorps and
college students across our country to join in a crusade for childhood
literacy, to make sure that every 8-year-old in our country could read --
read well -- before being promoted.  Thanks to AmeriCorps members like
Ardelia, hundreds of thousands of children have now been tutored, mentored
or enrolled in after-school programs, and 1,000 colleges have given us
their students to help go into our elementary schools to help teach our
kids to read.  Thank you very, very, very much.  (Applause.)

     In a profoundly inspiring effort, members of the National School and
Community Corps, CityYear, VISTA and AmeriCorps have helped Philadelphia
schools expand their pioneering program for student service.  As part of
this initiative, 11th and 12th graders are trained to tutor 2nd graders
one-on-one in after-school reading programs.  The students that do the
tutoring say they learn just as much as the youngsters they teach.

     What I'd like to see is to have this done in every school system in
America.  I think if all the juniors and seniors in America were committed
to making sure all the 2nd graders in America could read by the time they
got out of the 2nd grade it would revolutionize education in America.  That
is the symbol that Philadelphia represents to our future.  (Applause.)

     Today I'm releasing an independent study that shows that these efforts
are working.  Over the past school year, AmeriCorps members served in
programs tutoring more than 100,000 students in grades 1-3.  Sample tests
given at the beginning and the end of the school year showed that
children's reading skills in the programs where the AmeriCorps volunteers
tutored improved significantly and exceeded significantly expectations.

     In one case, an AmeriCorps member in Atlanta set out to recruit eight
college students to tutor struggling kids four hours a week.  Today that
program has 250 volunteers in 30 schools.  Seventy percent of the 2nd and
3rd graders participating in the program have increased their test scores
-- listen to this -- by at least two reading levels.  Two grade levels.

     So we actually have some objective evidence that the enthusiasm that
you all displayed when Harris called each of your projects and you stood up
and cheered actually is making a difference, a positive difference in the
lives of individual Americans.  And in so doing, I might add, bringing us
together across lines that divide us.

     One of the most important things about AmeriCorps I think is that it
gives the volunteers, who come from all different backgrounds, all
different races, all different religious backgrounds, a chance to meet and
work with and get to know people who are different from them; to tear down
barriers of distrust and misunderstanding and old-fashioned ignorance, and
build a genuine American community.

     You know, I think it's a great thing that America is so diverse and
growing more diverse.  It makes it more interesting.  But it's also
important to recognize that as we celebrate our differences, we have to
reaffirm our common humanity.  You look anywhere in the world today where
they're having trouble, and chances are they can celebrate their
differences but they're having trouble affirming their common humanity and
misunderstanding occurs.

     If America wants to be a force for good and peace and freedom and all
these places we see today -- from the Middle East to Northern Ireland to
the Balkans to Africa, where they're having tribal conflicts -- we have to
first be good at home.  You are helping us to be good at home and do the
right thing.  (Applause.)

     So it turns out this idea that was just sort of an applause line in my
'92 campaign speech -- it was a pretty good idea after all.  (Laughter.)
You proved it.  We know it works.  We have made it completely nonpartisan.
We've tried to take it completely out of the normal day-to-day arguments of
American politics, because it seems to be, as Harris said, the
quintessential American idea.

     That's why it is so important that the Congress this year rise above
politics and reauthorize the Corporation for National Service with the
necessary funding for a robust AmeriCorps.  (Applause.)

     We've succeeded out in the country, as you heard Senator Wofford say.
We have a letter from 49 of the nation's 50 governors.  That's 98 percent.
You don't get 98 percent of people agreeing on anything.  So we've got 98
percent of the governors saying, please reauthorize AmeriCorps.  Governor
Ridge says it's a vital resource because you get things done in

     I have talked with the congressional leaders about this.  I hope they
will follow the governors' lead and act in a bipartisan spirit.  I came to
Philadelphia today because sometimes, every now and then, no matter how
bipartisan an issue is out in the country, something happens when you cross
the border into the District of Columbia, and somehow it becomes a partisan
issue, even though no one in America thinks it is.

     So I came out here to you because I want people to see -- in
Washington, D.C., I want them to see your faces tonight, I want them to
hear your cheers tonight, I want them to know about your good deeds
tonight, I want them to see in your lives that AmeriCorps does get things
done and I want them to get something done to reauthorize this bill.

     A generation ago, Senator Robert Kennedy, who inspired so many young
people when I was your age, spoke of the power of the single person to
affect change.  And he said that each person and each act of bravery or
kindness or service sent out a ripple of hope; but that, together, those
ripples could become a tidal wave that could tear down the worst wall of
oppression and break down the biggest and sternest barriers to change.  You
are the living embodiment of those ripples of hope.  And you are changing
America in profound ways.  You do it in the work that you do.  You do it in
the way that you do it.  You do it in the way your lives are changed when
you leave AmeriCorps and you go on about the rest of your lives.

     We are all in your debt.  And so I hope, for goodness sakes, that the
Congress will give us the funding and the reauthorization we need so that
hundreds of thousands of more young people can have this experience over
the next five years, and millions and millions more of our fellow Americans
of all ages, beginning with our youngest children, will be the better for

     Thank you very, very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

     Now, wait.  Wait, wait.  I've got a job to do.  I have to swear in the
newest AmeriCorps class in the United States.  So I want them to stand up,
all the new class.  Stand up, please.  All the new class, people who have
not been sworn in.  Anybody that has not been sworn in, stand up.  All
right.  Raise your right hand, and repeat the pledge after me -- (swears in
new members):

       I will get things done for America, to make our people safer,
smarter, and healthier.  I will bring Americans together to strengthen our
communities.  Faced with apathy, I will take action.  Faced with conflicts,
I will seek common ground.  Faced with adversity, I will persevere.  I will
carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.  I am an AmeriCorps
member, and I will get things done.  (Applause.)

     END  4:30 P.M. EDT

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