WASHINGTON – President Bush appointed a football quarterback, Major League Baseball player, astronaut, actor, actress and political commentator, among others, on Thursday to a newly created presidential council that will promote service to the needy.
The new President's Council on Service and Civic Participation will "devise practical ways to encourage others to serve," Bush said in announcing the panel on the first anniversary of his USA Freedom Corps, which coordinates volunteer projects around the country.
The move is just one in a series Bush is making to try to push his domestic agenda, focusing on "compassion," while confronting terrorist and dictator states abroad. Since his State of the Union address Tuesday, Bush has stressed the need for Americans to reach out to those in need, help kids whose parents are in prison and take part in community service.
"Once again I'm asking citizens to serve your community and country," Bush said at a Boys and Girls Club in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Georgetown. "It doesn't matter how big or small the program ... answer the call of this country."
The new panel represents virtually every corner of society and will lead a massive nationwide effort to recognize the dedicated service of Americans and to engage more individuals in volunteer service.
Retired Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green will chair the panel. The Virginian played professional football with the Redskins for 20 consecutive seasons, winning two Super Bowl titles. In 1988, Green founded the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation, which operates after-school and full-time summer programs for children.
In announcing Green's appointment, Bush joked, "The most compassionate thing Darrell Green has done is to retire ... particularly if you're a Dallas Cowboys fan."
Former presidential candidate Bob Dole will serve as honorary co-chair. The former senator and representative from Kansas served as Senate GOP leader for 12 years before departing to seek the GOP nomination for president in 1996. Dole also serves as the national chairman of the World War II Memorial Campaign and co-chair of the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund.
Joining Dole as an honorary co-chair is John Glenn of Ohio, the first man to orbit the earth. Glenn served four terms in the U.S. Senate and led a career as a Navy pilot and astronaut. For his service in World War II and the Korean War, Glenn received numerous awards, including the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
One panel member is perhaps better known by screen names like "Rudy" or "Sam." Sean Astin is an actor and director currently starring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy as "Sam," Frodo's sidekick in the dangerous quest to return an evil ring to Mordor. Astin is also recognized for his 1993 portrayal as a young man determined to play football for Notre Dame in Rudy.
Actress Dixie Carter is best known for her roles as Julia Sugarbaker on the long-running comedy, Designing Women, and more recently as Randi King, on Family Law.
Cal Ripken, Jr. of Maryland is one of the heartthrob baseball players of Baltimore. Ripken retired from Major League Baseball in 2001 after playing 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. He helped found the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, which teaches baseball to young underprivileged kids, and the Kelly and Cal Ripken, Jr. Foundation, which currently focuses on literacy and youth recreation programs around Baltimore.
Steve Young is a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and founder and chair of the Forever Young Foundation, a non-profit public charity, dedicated to the development, security, strength and education of children.
Luis Gonzalez began his Major League Baseball career in 1990 with the Houston Astros and now plays left field for the Arizona Diamondbacks and is one of the National League leaders in batting average, homeruns and RBIs. He also created the Kids Going Gonzo for School program to support economically disadvantaged youth.
Cokie Roberts is a well-known political commentator for ABC News.
Hope Taft, wife of Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, has focused on mobilizing communities to promote positive youth development emphasizing drug and alcohol prevention, encouraging and recognizing volunteerism, and promoting Ohio's Bicentennial through Ohio's arts and history.
Clotilde Dedecker is president of the National Women's Hall of Fame, executive director of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women and president emeritus of the Association of Junior Leagues International. She co-chaired the U.S. National Committee for the United Nations International Year of the Volunteer.
Pedro Garcia is the director of schools for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and previously served as superintendent of the Corona-Norco Unified School District, one of the 15 largest districts in California.
Deal Hudson is the publisher and editor of CRISIS Magazine. He was a philosophy professor at Fordham University and taught for nine years at Mercer University, where he was chair of the philosophy department.
Wendy Kopp is the founder and president of Teach for America, a national corps of college graduates representing all academic majors and backgrounds who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools.
Other members include public policy professor Robert Putnam, Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli and AARP CEO Bill Novelli, who was also president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and executive vice president of CARE.
More members will later be named.
Bush said he picked members from a wide swath of America, who have committed to making the country a better place.
"Along with those, there's a lot of other well-known Americans who have heard a call, responsible citizens for the future of this country, by using their positions of influence and stature to rally the true strength of the country, which is the compassion of our fellow citizens," Bush said.
During Thursday's speech, Bush thanked the volunteers who have made successful USA Freedom Corps, with its three prongs, AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Citizen Corps, all of which provide service opportunities throughout the country.
The president also pitched his new proposal, unveiled during his State of the Union address, to spend $450 million over three years to connect mentors with 1 million disadvantaged adolescents and children of prisoners.
The Education Department would distribute $300 million worth of grants to recruit and train mentors for disadvantaged students. The remaining $150 million would be awarded by the Health and Human Services Department to train and organize mentors for 100,000 middle school-aged children of prisoners
The Associated Press contributed to this report.