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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

More Volunteers?

The country needs a federal program to promote something as uniquely American as volunteering?

Shoot, this nation dang near invented the idea of service to others. It was, after all, a volunteer army that kicked the behinds of the redcoats to win the country’s independence from Britain.

Tocqueville observed an unprecedented number of people getting together for common purposes – without coercion, without government interference. The 26-year-old author remarked in perhaps the best book ever written about democracy, “Democracy in America”, that such alliances not only fostered self-reliance but also strengthened the skills of association that a vital citizenry requires.

Fast-forward to 2002, and we find a small-government president calling for the expansion of the bureaucracy to do something that Americans have done for generations as “habits of the hearts,” as Tocqueville called volunteerism.

President Bush introduced Congress and the nation to his patriotically named USA Freedom Corps concept during his first State of the Union speech Tuesday. Details followed the next day, when Bush began a modern-day version of an old-fashioned barnstorming tour to promote the initiative.

An eight-person White House office will oversee the national service and volunteer effort. Price: $560 million.

The Citizen Corps – price tag of $230 million. Expanding AmeriCorps and the Senior Corps – $280 million. Doubling the number of Peace Corps volunteers -$200 million over five years.

Hold the phone. Bush pushing the Peace Corps? AmeriCorps? My friends, alternate universes have collided. A Republican president co-opts and expands social service programs that started with Democratic presidents – John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps and Bill Clinton’s AmeriCorps – all to rousing applause from both sides of the aisle?

Isn’t it amazing what the party faithful will back when you slap a flag-waving name on something?

But does America need more departments, White House offices and federal oversight? Bush could have made an equally strong statement about doing something to help somebody else by directing Americans to seek out volunteer opportunities that already exist in their own communities.

Opportunities are available, right now, through numerous volunteer centers nationwide.

Bush remains a Republican on one point – if you want to shoot someone the American taxpayers will pay your salary, but, if you want to help others – volunteer.