NEW YORK – President Bush on Saturday called on all Americans to take part in a month of community service and volunteerism as his administration continues to try to drum up support for the war on terror.
"In all of the trials we have faced this past year, countless acts of generosity and sacrifice have revealed the good heart of our nation," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "And in coming weeks, I ask all citizens to answer the call to help those in need, and make this month a September of Service."
Bush touted his USA Freedom Corps. effort, which, launched after Sept. 11, aims to round up volunteers at the local level to get involved in community service. He also called on Americans to enlist in what he dubbed "armies of compassion" and dedicate at least 4,000 hours of service to their communities and the world.
"The response to the call to service has been strong," he said.
Bush hailed VolunteerMatch, a group that matches volunteers to charities on the USA Freedom Corps Web page, and said referrals from that service have increased by more than 70 percent over last year. Requests for Peace Corps volunteer applications have increased 40 percent over, while online AmeriCorps applications are up by 95 percent since January. And more than 48,000 individuals have signed up online to participate in the new Citizens Corps program.
"The response we have seen is more than numbers, though," Bush said. "It is a reminder that when people help each other, our entire nation benefits."
Bush wants America’s students to begin a service activity or project this school year and introduced a new guidebook for educators to help them enlist America’s young people in service to their communities and instill in them a sense of civic participation and responsibility.
More than 130,000 public and private elementary and secondary schools, home schools and after-school programs around the country will receive copes of the Students in Service to American guidebook, a CD-ROM, posters and other resources. A Web site called "Students in Service to America" will also be launched.
Bush also announced that the Corporation for National and Community Service will dedicate 25,000 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers to support student service activities like after-school programs.
About $20 million in grant funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service included in its current budget request will go to support these volunteers. This money is on top of the $43 million Bush requested for the Learn and Serve America program, which gives young people chances to serve in schools, community organizations, colleges and universities.
"Young people have the energy and determination to do important work, and volunteer service can teach them valuable lessons about responsibility, community, and selflessness at an early age," the president said. "Through these efforts, young people will learn how important service is to our nation, and how to get started today."
And as the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks quickly approaches, Bush said acts of kindness can honor the victims. He also noted that this year, teachers face an additional challenge in finding instructional and meaningful ways to have students reflect on what happened that day.
The Points of Light Foundation, which offers educators help getting students engaged in community service, through the end of the year will offer teachers the chance to designate student service projects as living memorials to individual victims of the attacks through the USA Initiative. These projects can include food drives, tutoring projects, park cleanups and playground building.
"As September the 11th approaches, difficult memories of planes and buildings will resurface," Bush said. "But so will images of brave individuals coming to the aid of neighbors in need. That spirit of courage and selflessness has shown the world why our nation is the greatest force for good in history. I urge all Americans to honor the memory of those lost by serving others."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.