Photo Credit: Adam Schultz / Clinton Foundation

United in service

By Stephanie S. Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation

Service and volunteerism create a shared sense of responsibility to build a better tomorrow. President Clinton created AmeriCorps in 1993 to inspire and invest in young people who want to contribute to their communities through public service. More than 20 years later, over 1 million AmeriCorps members have contributed 1.4 billion hours in service across America.

On September 21, 1993, President Clinton marches across the South Lawn of the White House before signing the National and Service Trust Act of 1993, which led to the creation of AmeriCorps one year later. Photo Courtesy: Corporation for National and Community Service

Service and volunteerism open opportunities for civically-minded people and their communities. That’s why it’s so instrumental to the work of the Clinton Foundation, and especially the Clinton Presidential Center. In fact, to kick off the week of events surrounding the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Center in 2004, we celebrated the opening of City Year Little Rock, established as a living legacy of President Clinton’s dedication to national service. City Year is an education-focused national service organization that partners with schools and teachers to provide students with the individualized support they need to succeed.

Since it first opened, 510 corps members in Central Arkansas have served more than 867,000 hours, providing 21,000 students with youth leadership and academic support. In fact, Clinton Foundation staff and City Year Little Rock corps members have collaborated on dozens of community service projects in the past twelve years, including our annual Day of Action in support of Global Youth Service Day. Over the years, thousands of Arkansas students have participated in service learning workshops and community projects, rolling up their sleeves and giving back to their community.

Nationally, Chelsea Clinton continues to lead our Day of Action program, bringing together motivated volunteers from across the country to make a difference in their communities. Since starting the program in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, more than 6,500 volunteers have come together at Clinton Foundation Day of Action events, donating more than 27,000 hours of their time, and doing everything from prepping meals for seniors to beautifying school campuses to making diaper and book packets for parents.

Day of Action volunteers help to transform a previously vacant 15-acre lot in downtown Phoenix, AZ into a vibrant and sustainable public space

Additionally, through the Clinton Presidential Center’s work in partnership with the presidential centers of George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon Baines Johnson, we are helping to produce the bold and principled leaders needed to solve our nation’s most pressing challenges. These emerging leaders of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program are actively giving back and creating projects in their communities that are making a difference. One scholar who immigrated here from Pol Pot’s Cambodia recently noted, “My mother dreamed of the freedom to serve, the privilege to learn, and the opportunity to see the world from different viewpoints.” Service, she says, is “truly the American dream.”

Another scholar is sharing stories of national service that have transformed lives and communities across the country as part of her leadership project for the program. She noted that she is “deeply inspired by their commitment and their passion for changing their community and the world — and by the tremendous impact they are having through service.”

President Clinton and President Bush with Presidential Leadership Scholars

As President Clinton said in 1994 when he swore in the first class of AmeriCorps, “Service is never a simple act, it’s about sacrifice for others and about accomplishment for ourselves, about reaching out, one person to another, about all our choices gathered together as a country to reach across all our divides. It’s about you and me and all of us together, who we are as individuals and what we are as a nation.”

We are united by the people who show up each and every day to build a better community — not for themselves, but for each other.