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Remarks to AmeriCorps Volunteers in Aberdeen, Maryland

September 11, 1994

Thank you very much. Chaplain, and General and Mrs. Tragemann, General Monroe, General Scott, Colonel Bosley, Senator and Mrs. Sarbanes, ladies and gentlemen.

I guess I'll start by saying happy birthday— [laughter]—and happy anniversary. A commitment of 43 years is something the rest of this country could do more to emulate, sir. And we thank both of you for what you've done.

Hillary and I are delighted to be here today with all of you and especially with our young AmeriCorps volunteers. [Applause] A quiet, reticent group. [Laughter]

This is a special service that reaffirms our relationship to our God and our God-given responsibility to serve our fellow human beings. The Scripture from Isaiah that is the basis of this service today is something we would all do well to read and live by on a regular basis and to echo the words of Isaiah, "Here am I, Lord; send me." Because as all of you who are here know already, service to others is something everyone can do and something everyone should do because of our relationship to our God, our responsibility to others, and our responsibility to ourselves.

This chapel is filled with people who have answered the call to service. In every case, you embody what service means to America, Americans coming together and moving forward. In three words that I have always believed embodied what was best about this country—opportunity, responsibility, and community—your country has given you the opportunity to serve. You have assumed the responsibility. And our American family is much stronger and better and richer as a result.

Many of you are civilians who have spent a lifetime fulfilling the public trust in and around Aberdeen and supporting our Nation's military. And for that we are all very grateful. Many of you have spent your entire careers in uniform, your service profound, often putting you at risk of providing what President Lincoln called "the last full measure of devotion." We honor you more than we can say.

And many of you are the young people here in AmeriCorps. When I was inaugurated President, I called America to a season of service, and I asked our young people to lead the way. Thankfully, Congress has given them that opportunity, and they have responded with their responsibility in the national service program. And so we honor them for their service as well.

Later today, 40 of these young people, those in the yellow outfits, will be leaving to fight the forest fires that are raging in the West, that have already claimed so much of our natural heritage and, unfortunately, the lives of some of our finest citizens. To them and to all the other corps members who are here and to the tens of thousands who will take the pledge of service with us tomorrow at the White House and all across America as we formally kick off the first full year of AmeriCorps with 20,000 young people across this country, let us say to them, we honor your service as well, and we thank you for the high calling you have answered.

These young people will be doing a lot of things, working in education, working to help the environment, working to deal with people's human needs, working to help to increase the safety and security of our neighborhoods and our schools and our streets. Some may be working with the veterans now at Perry Point Hospital or connecting young students to the world of knowledge in Baltimore classrooms right here in Maryland. Some will be tying service and science together as they work to reclaim the Chesapeake Bay or deal with the problems of the Anacostia down in the District of Columbia.

Every one of you represents the oldest and best of America's traditions. This country really got started by a bunch of volunteers. Nobody made them do what they did. They all had to sign up on their own accord. Now we are run, from our national security all the way down to our most elemental function in every community in this country, by a nation of volunteers, not by Government edict, not by large bureaucracies but by the spirit of service and devotion that burns within the heart of every American.

So for all of you, and especially for these young people who may launch a whole generation of renewal of service all across this country, I say God bless you and all who serve, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:25 a.m. in the base chapel at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where AmeriCorps volunteers in the National Civilian Community Corps had received training. In his remarks, he referred to Chaplain (Lt. Col.) O. Wayne Smith; Maj. Gen. Richard W. Tragemann, commander, Aberdeen Proving Ground, and his wife, Kathy; Maj. Gen. James Monroe, chief of ordnance and commander, U.S. Army Ordnance Center and School; Brig. Gen. Don Scott, USA (Ret.), president, National Civilian Community Corps; James M. Bosley, deputy installation commander, Aberdeen Proving Ground; and congregation members celebrating special occasions.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to AmeriCorps Volunteers in Aberdeen, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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