Tapping Volunteers in a War

President Bush's call for a new program - USA Freedom Corps - should serve to involve Americans in the war on terrorism.

At the least, it's a way to spark more citizens into being community volunteers. Mr. Bush wants "every American to commit at least two years [4,000 hours] ... to the service of your neighbors and your nation."

Citizen Corps, a key component of Freedom Corps, also announced by Bush this week, would direct volunteers into homeland security efforts, using them to assist "first responders" (police, firemen, etc.) in the event of a crisis. It would double the size of the Neighborhood Watch program, in which citizens report suspicious activity. And it would create a Medical Reserve of retired healthcare workers to help in public emergencies.

At bottom, Freedom Corps stands poised to become another legacy of domestic service like those left by Presidents Kennedy (the Peace Corps) and Clinton (AmeriCorps).

The serious mission of Freedom Corps - preventing or reacting to terrorism - is yet another example of America's history of private giving for the public good. It's a formal way to bring people into civic life and create more compassionate communities.

Bush hopes this program will prolong the patriotic and community-oriented spirit that was expressed after Sept. 11. It need not fade away.

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