Carolyn McCarthy

National Service - May 8, 2007

Carolyn McCarthy
May 08, 2007— Washington, D.C.
Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities hearing
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Rep. McCarthy, chairwoman of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities, gives her opening statement at a subcommittee hearing on national and community service.

I am really pleased that the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee is holding its second hearing on national service during National Volunteer Week. Congress celebrated National Volunteer Week through a resolution introduced by my colleague, the gentlewoman from New Hampshire, Congresswoman Shea-Porter, and passed by a floor vote yesterday. I hope that during this week there are celebrations of volunteering in each community across the Nation. No one can dispute the importance of volunteering and service to the lives of those who are the recipients of the service.

Nor can we dispute the benefits experienced by those serving others. I would like to thank our very distinguished panel for their testimony and for their commitment to service.

We have seen a rise of volunteering in the United States over time, with strong growth and momentum after 9/11, in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; to this day, there is a strong volunteer presence in the gulf region working on recovery. We will hear today about the impact of volunteering in the gulf and using one's occupation and dedication to service to raise the level of awareness of volunteering and service in our Nation. Last year, 61.2 million Americans volunteered in the United States--26.7 percent of our population--serving an estimated 8.1 billion hours. Some have put a dollar value on the volunteers' time and estimated last year's service to be worth $152 billion to this Nation.

We are a giving people. In fact, 5.3 million Americans worked with their neighbors to improve their communities without going through a formal organization and perhaps did not even consider that they were volunteering or doing service. They were just doing what needed to be done. It is our nature to help each other, to work together, to keep our communities safe, clean and inviting, and to offer service and assistance to those in the highest need around us.

However, disturbingly, more people volunteered in 2005 than they did in 2006. In fact, one-third of those who volunteered in 2005 did not volunteer in 2006. It is time for us to renew our sense of service.

Volunteering and service are quite possibly the way we resolve some of our communities', and our Nation's, most challenging problems.

For example, to remain competitive in the global knowledge economy, we must re-ignite the enthusiasm for science and technology and its importance to our daily lives among our entire citizenship. But most importantly, it is in our students. One indicator of this is, NASA is concerned that in the future it will be unable to hire enough scientists, engineers and technicians to fill the positions held by the soon retiring baby boomers. Education is clearly part of the solution. But we cannot place all of this on the teachers.

We must look to those baby boomers and their peers to start volunteering now and in after-school programs, Saturday programs and summer programs that will engage youth in math, science and technology and, yes, service.

I think if these scientists and engineers heard the call to civic duty and had the clear sense they were directly affecting students' lives and the future of our Nation, they would compete with each other for any service or volunteer placement offered. Today we will hear of programs that do just give scientists, engineers, technicians and mathematicians the chance to serve and remain in service to our youth and therefore our Nation.

Service must be meaningful, create positive change in our communities and completed with a well-managed program with necessary training and recognition for the service completed.

We must give volunteers and those who serve a reason to return and serve again. Today we will hear of being work being done in Atlanta Georgia to engage AmeriCorps alumni after their year of service has ended to continue to live by the AmeriCorps commitment to service. I hope from that testimony we will apply ideas to as many service programs as possible.

I am looking forward to learning from this and other hearings we will hold on this issue, how we mobilize more volunteers to ensure a brighter future for all of our American youth, engage students in communities and harness the experience of our seniors.

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