Obama on Wednesday advocated a major expansion of the
Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and other national service
programs, declaring, ''This will be a cause of my
senator said the government is not keeping pace with those
who want to help. ''We will create new opportunities for all
of us to serve,'' he said at a rally at Cornell
College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
Obama evoked the
memory of President Kennedy and his Peace Corps
volunteers, saying, ''JFK made their service a bridge to the
developing world.'' Despite growing anti-Americanism
around the world, he said, ''the American people are
not the problem, they are the answer.''
Obama said he
would also expand the all-volunteer military but would
''never send them to fight in a misguided war.''
''The burden of
service has fallen more and more on the brave men and
women of our military,'' he said, citing ''tour upon tour of
duty in a war with no end.'' For returning troops, he
said, ''We will enlist veterans to help other veterans
to find jobs, and to pitch in at VA hospitals and
His plan would:
AmeriCorps from its current 75,000 positions to 250,000,
with new units to deal with education, clean energy,
health care and homeland security.
service programs involving retired people and anyone over
the size of the Peace Corps from its current 7,800
volunteers to 16,000 by its 50th anniversary in 2011.
goals for middle school and high school students to give 50
hours a year of public service, and for college
students to serve 100 hours a year.
candidates also have proposed expanding national
senator Chris Dodd, a former Peace Corps volunteer, has
proposed making community service mandatory for all high
school students, doubling the size of the Peace Corps
by 2011 and expanding the AmeriCorps national service
program to 1 million participants. He also has proposed
encouraging service by adults by offering tax credits to
employers who give workers paid time off to volunteer
and $1,000 grants for seniors who help out in schools.
The money could be used for their own continuing
education or that of a child or grandchild.
governor Bill Richardson has proposed forgiving a portion of
college loans if graduates complete a year of national
service. Former North Carolina senator John Edwards
has promoted community service through his One Corps
program, which brings together his supporters in each
state to work on service projects.
New York senator
Hillary Rodham Clinton has proposed creating a U.S.
Public Service Academy modeled after the military academies,
and has proposed giving everyone who engages in
national service full time for a year, a $10,000
college scholarship. She has cosponsored legislation to
provide federal financing to support public service programs
in elementary and high schools.
On other subjects
during a question-and-answer session, Obama said that
if elected, he would lift the Bush administration's ban on
federally funded embryonic stem-cell research and
close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also
said he would have his attorney general review every
executive order issued by Bush and reject those that
infringe on constitutional or civil rights.
Asked if he would
try to legalize gay marriages, Obama said he would not
do so at the federal level but would ensure that same-sex
couples are guaranteed the same rights and benefits as
Obama is vying
with Clinton for the lead in polls of Iowa Democrats.
Edwards is close behind.
As he has done on
other college campuses across the state, Obama urged
students planning to go home for the holidays to come back
to campus early to vote in the January 3 caucuses.
''You have this
unique opportunity to shape history. If you are an Iowa
student, you need to go to the Iowa caucuses,'' Obama said.
He did not
include an appeal that out-of-state students participate in
the Iowa Democratic caucuses, a suggestion that has
generated criticism from some of his rivals, including
said, ''For those of you going to your hometowns around
the state of Iowa ... I need you to get your parents and
your grandparents and your friends. Take them with you
to the caucuses.''
Later, at a rally
on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa in
Cedar Falls, Obama said, ''I'm only going to win if all of
you caucus.... We are in a defining moment in our
history.'' (Tom Raum, AP)