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President Obama Adopts a Founding Principle of the Franklin Project

July 16, 2013  • John Bridgeland

John Bridgeland is co-chair of the Franklin Project, a new venture by the Aspen Institute to marshal the best case for a voluntary civilian counterpart to military service in the United States. 

President Barack Obama hosts former President George H. W. Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush, and members of the Bush family for an event honoring the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award.

On July 15th, I was privileged to join hundreds of leaders and volunteers gathered at the White House as Presidents Barack Obama and George H.W. Bush awarded the 5,000th Point of Light Award to Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, who founded a nonprofit organization that has delivered more than 232 million free meals to hungry children in 15 countries. 

Obama also announced a new task force of Cabinet agency officials to identify ways that public sector agencies can support national service. Specifically, the task force and its member agencies are charged with “facilitating national service and volunteering partnerships” in consultation with the Corporation for National and Community Service to “help the agency achieve its mission.”  

On behalf of the Institute’s Franklin Project, I commend the president for his leadership and am encouraged that he issued this presidential memorandum and recognized the powerful impact that engaging Americans in national service can have on the big challenges facing our country.

The action taken by the president aligns with the Franklin Project’s Plan of Action, which included the following recommendation: “We propose that the president issue an Executive Order calling on all federal departments and agencies to examine how they can develop additional innovative partnerships that engage national service members in achieving their missions.”

We have already seen the promise of national service corps across government. During Hurricane Sandy, more than 400 FEMA Corps members – full-time national service participants committed to disaster response and recovery — were on the ground in New Jersey and New York, helping residents access the help they needed and begin to rebuild their lives. In addition to helping Americans who needed it most, this innovative partnership between two federal departments is leveraging national service and will save the taxpayers more than $60 million per year when the program reaches full scale.  

As Obama said, “Service is not a Democratic value or a Republican value. It’s a core part of being an American.”  The Franklin Project looks forward to working with the Task Force and leaders in government to make a year of full-time service a common expectation and opportunity for all of America’s young adults.