Americans are facing multiple historic crises simultaneously. COVID has killed more than 500,000 Americans and put millions of Americans out of work, disproportionately impacting young Americans and people of color. At the same time, the climate crisis continues to wreak havoc on communities and has highlighted the deep racial disparities caused by climate change. These crises are converging at a time when polarization is plaguing our politics. Partisanship, distrust, and bias against those from different backgrounds have created deep rifts in our society and threaten our democracy.
National service has the potential to transform how we address the biggest challenges of our time. It can bolster pandemic response and preparedness, put Americans on a pathway to work, address our climate crisis by harnessing the energy of the next generation, and help foster civic renewal.
Currently, national service is central to our nation’s response to the COVID pandemic. Corps members are on the ground delivering food to the hungry, contact tracing and supporting vaccine distribution, and tutoring students to combat learning loss and provide them with support to keep up with virtual school.
To boost national service’s efforts to support pandemic recovery, over $1 billion is included in the American Rescue Plan — the largest single investment in national service in our nation’s history. This downpayment for national service lays the groundwork for a more significant investment that builds upon growing bipartisan congressional support and ultimately aims to engage one million young Americans in civilian national service annually.
As part of our Serve America Together campaign to make national service a part of growing up in America, we have set our sights on an ambitious vision for national service — one that strengthens service in America so that every young person, regardless of background, has the opportunity to serve. This vision has the potential to become reality if spearheaded by leadership in the White House.
That’s why the Serve America Together campaign is issuing a new call to President Biden to “build back better” as the Service President.
As a lifelong public servant and advocate for service in all its forms, President Biden has an opportunity to make a bold investment in national service as a solution to today’s convergent crises.
The Biden Administration has identified COVID, climate change, racial justice, and economic inequality as its top priorities. And the Biden campaign focused on restoring the soul of the nation. National service is uniquely positioned to help him meet all of these goals at once while building off the principles and ideals that have shaped President Biden’s own career.
President Biden should call young people across the nation into national service to support our country’s unmet needs — all while addressing his Administration's top priorities.
Prioritizing national service in the Biden Administration means:
- Expanding national service positions to 250,000 a year, up from 75,000 a year today and progress toward an ultimate goal of one million;
- Elevating service in the White House by creating a National Service Advisor and service corps within and between departments and federal agencies;
- Flooding the nonprofit sector with critical support through a Service Year Fellowship;
- Making national service positions accessible to youth of all races, ethnicities, and income levels by increasing stipends and benefits and eliminating barriers for groups working with opportunity youth;
- Ensuring workforce development is integrated into national service programs; and
- Launching an online portal to connect people to military, national, and public service opportunities
In the early days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, with unemployment at historic highs, FDR met the moment of national crisis facing the country with the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC immediately put 250,000 unemployed Americans to work across the country, to tend to our public lands and conserve our natural resources.
Sixty years ago, President John F. Kennedy, Jr, called Americans into service and established the Peace Corps to promote America’s vision of a free world and embrace the “ask not” ethos of the era.
In the nearly 90 years since, national service has played a critical role in our nation’s recovery in times of crisis and has become an essential part of supporting local communities across the country.
This is a pivotal moment for America and for our movement. The Serve America Together campaign is issuing this call to President Biden to become the Service President to ensure that this unprecedented moment in our history is met with a bold idea that meets the moment.
With President Biden’s leadership, national service has the potential to transform our nation, our young people, and our democracy. He has the chance to make national service the cornerstone of his legacy and become the Service President.