President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton joined forces Friday to mark the 20th anniversary of the AmeriCorps national service program, heralding the impact volunteering can have on both individuals and the nation.
"You have made America stronger for what you have done," Obama said during a White House ceremony where hundreds of new volunteers were sworn in for duty. "AmeriCorps has changed the life of our nation."
Clinton signed the legislation that created the AmeriCorps program, an act he called one of his proudest achievements. With nearly 1 million people spending more than 1.2 billion hours working for AmeriCorps, Clinton said the volunteers have "kept your promise to get things done."
At a time of partisanship and frustration with Washington, Clinton said the volunteers give him a reason to be hopeful.
"This is no time to be pessimistic about America's future," he said. "Look at you. Look at the rainbow of diversity united to advance our common humanity."
Obama announced a new initiative to encourage employers — private, nonprofit and government at all levels — to create recruitment, hiring and advancement opportunities for graduates of AmeriCorps, which operates exclusively in the U.S., and the Peace Corps, which directs volunteers to service opportunities outside the U.S.
Several private and nonprofit employers already have signed up for the effort, including Disney, Comcast, CSX, the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, the White House said.
Obama also announced a new award to recognize the accomplishments of younger volunteers and encourage service by their peers.
In addition, an expansion of partnerships between the Corporation for National and Community Service, other federal agencies and the private sector will create thousands of new opportunities for service in communities across the country, the White House said. The corporation is the federal agency that runs AmeriCorps.
Beyond the White House, swearing-in ceremonies were also being held Friday in the 50 states and several U.S. territories.
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