Friday, September 12, 2008

More Groovy Service Acts at Service Nation Summit: Senator Chris Dodd's Semester of Service and Encore Service Act

"It is time to establish our collective responsibility," --Senator Chris Dodd.

During his speech this afternoon at the Service Nation Summit, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) described being inspired to serve after hearing John F. Kennedy's inaugural address on January 20, 1961 when he said, "ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country." Dodd served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic from 1966 to 1968, and then joined the U.S. Army Reserves for over 6 years. In 1974, he was the first former Peace Corps volunteer to be elected to the Senate. Senator Paul Tsongas, who served in Ethiopia, was the second.

In addition to the introduction of the Serve America Act, that I just posted about, Senator Dodd announced that he will be introducing the Semester of Service Act and the Encore Service Act. He is joined by Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

The Semester of Service Act would allow high school juniors and seniors to spend more than a third of a semester outside of the classroom serving their community. They would receive academic credit for participating in 70 or more hours of service-learning activities each semester.

The Encore Service Act would offer Americans 55 years old or older the opportunity to join the Encore Service Program (serving high-need communities in return for a stipend or education award), Encore Fellows Program (holding management and leadership positions in public or private nonprofit organizations), and the Silver Scholars Program (receiving an education scholarship for $1,000 in exchange for volunteering with public agencies or private nonprofits between 250-500 hours a year). The Encore Service Act would also raise the authorization levels for the Foster Grandparent, Senior Corps and RSVP programs, and modify the eligibility levels to 55 years and older.

I'm encouraged by the introduction of all of this bipartisan, service-themed legislation. As was repeated several times at the conference, talking about service is important, but if there isn't any action taken, or frameworks created to engage people, what's the point? As Richard Cizik, Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals, said in an earlier panel, if you have a vision, but no plan of action, it's just a hallucination.

You can watch a short video with Senator Dodd, and view videos with other presenters at bethechangeinc.org/servicenation/live




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