|3:47 PM EDT||
George Miller, D-CA 7th
Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I just want to, before we close debate, thank Mr. Platts and Mrs. McCarthy for all of their hard work. They were really the engines behind this legislation and getting it through the subcommittees and the committees for our consideration here on the floor. I want to thank them very much for that effort.
A couple of speakers suggested that somehow Americans volunteer, so we don't need this act. The fact of the matter is this act builds much more than just volunteers. I volunteer for the Habitat for Humanity. I volunteer in the schools in my district. I volunteer in Coastal Cleanup. I volunteer in community Weed and Seed programs. I volunteer in a lot of efforts. This is also about taking people who would never think of volunteering, young people who come from neighborhoods where that's not an
opportunity that they may have necessarily. And it not only gets them into volunteering, but also builds skills. What people really like to have volunteer are people with skills come and volunteer.
It also builds leadership skills, so that those young people can either incorporate their skills in additional volunteering or organize other people to volunteer as they leave these programs. Many of these young people graduate and go into public service. In California, we will find people who will go from one of these programs to the California Conservation Corps to maybe the national parks program, where they end up working and rebuilding the infrastructure of our national parks or public lands
or coastal areas of these States.
And when you ask the young people, when you run across them, where did they get their start, they got their start in AmeriCorps or the VISTA program or something like that. They end up maybe later, after they go to school, they come back and they work in the community. That's why one of the things that this legislation does is try to reach out to the alumni of this program, because we now realize how valuable they are to our communities and we want them to continue to participate and continue
to organize people who have been the beneficiaries of this program and those who have participated in it as leaders and as participants so that we can build that core.
It's very interesting now, there's a number of people discussing the national defense level of this country, that one of the things we failed to do after 9/11 was build in a resiliency of this country in the event of other another attack. Tragically, after 9/11 the President told the country they didn't have to do anything, if they would just go shopping. [Page: H1498]
But now what we see is we still don't have the basic infrastructure in our communities to deal with natural disasters, to deal with possible terrorist attacks, to deal with regional-wide problems, whether they be fires, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, or any of that. In fact, what we need is we need volunteers and people with volunteer experience, people with organizing volunteers to start to come together to think about how a community would respond, whether it's a chemical spill, whether it's
a chemical plant explosion, whether it's an earthquake or a fire, to respond to help those people, to help those first responders. We've never organized that. But we would like to start thinking about organizing that, and I'm sure when we do, we will be calling upon the professionals that were in VISTA, that were in AmeriCorps, that were in the Senior Corps, that have connections through their business connections, through their community involvement.
So, this program pays many dividends way beyond the idea that this is just about volunteering on a Saturday morning or a Sunday morning with your church. We all do that. But there has to be more. And there has to be avenues for people who aren't encouraged to volunteer, that we can provide that encouragement and we can encourage people to participate with populations that need that kind of assistance. That's the importance of this legislation.
It's unfortunate it has taken so long for us to reauthorize this bill. But what we know is Americans all across this country in every region of this country want to see a greater sense of people giving back to their communities, people volunteering in their communities, organizing people to volunteer, to provide services to their communities. That's what this legislation responds to.
It's been incredibly successful, when you meet the graduates of these programs, when you meet the alumni of these programs. They don't stop there. It becomes part of the ethic of their life. And they continue it in their business, in their professions. They continue that kind of activity because they see the value of it, they've participated in it. And I would hope that my colleagues would give this legislation overwhelming bipartisan support.