IT IS with great pleasure today that I am signing into law the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973, extending and strengthening the mandate of ACTION to serve as a spearhead of our voluntary service programs.
In creating ACTION 2 years ago with the consent of the Congress, I hoped that the new Agency would help us restructure our thinking about volunteer services in America. We needed to build upon what we had learned in our volunteer poverty programs and then to expand our efforts to other community and national problems. Volunteer programs had to become relevant to the needs and demands of the 1970's.
The bill I am signing today translates those hopes into concrete reality. By broadening State and local participation in ACTION programs, it gives every community a much better chance to solve its own problems. Local initiative and local responsibility should now become the driving force behind ACTION's efforts across the Nation.
Several other notable improvements are also contained in this bill:
--It permits ACTION to launch special volunteer programs aimed at a wider range of human, social, and environmental problems such as those experienced by veterans, drug abusers, and youthful offenders.
--It doubles the length of service of VISTA volunteers to 2 years, and encourages them to deal with a wider range of problems.
--It authorizes a continuation of the new and innovative University Year for ACTION program in which students earn academic credit while working full time in poverty-related projects.
--And it enables the Federal Government to design programs to meet the needs of older Americans and those who can use economic and financial counseling.
Many of the best features of this bill have resulted from compromise efforts between the Congress .and the Administration. The harmonious, bipartisan spirit which brought this bill to passage augurs well for an organization that now seeks to enlist all Americans in a constructive, voluntary effort to help others who cannot 'help themselves.
In signing this bill, I want to take special note of a branch of the ACTION program that is authorized by separate legislation but certainly has been central to the success of this new agency: the Peace Corps. Five years ago, the Peace Corps operated in a cold war environment and the first flush of public enthusiasm for the Corps had faded. Today, as we seek to build a new era of peace, the Peace Corps' role has also changed so that it now tries to give more practical, hardheaded assistance to our neighbors abroad. I am gratified that with these changes has come a revived interest in Peace Corps service and a growing opportunity for its volunteers of all ages to play a vital role in people-to-people diplomacy.