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Statement About the National Program for Voluntary Action

November 04, 1969

FROM the beginning of our country, Americans have worked together voluntarily to help master common needs and problems. A major goal of this administration is to recognize and enlist the energies and resources of the people themselves, as well as government, in a renewal of this historic American approach. To further that goal, I announced last March the initial steps in building a National Program for Voluntary Action.

For the past 6 months, my Special Consultant on Voluntary Action, Max M. Fisher of Detroit, and Secretary Romney of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Voluntary Action, have been developing the National Program. It is based on three assumptions:

1. Many Americans would like to start working as volunteers on community problems. A recent survey reported that two-thirds of us were willing to volunteer regularly if shown something worthwhile to do.

2. The role of the government is to help these Americans become effective volunteers--not to direct them, or to impose priorities upon them, or to organize them in any kind of master plan.

The government should respond to the desires of the people, not the other way around.

3. For volunteer Americans to be most effective, they need to be able to draw upon professional skills and organized experience. Therefore, it is also important to work with existing organizations as well as to encourage new activities.

Mr. Fisher and Secretary Romney have met with hundreds of voluntary action leaders both from established organizations and emergent groups, representing the broadest cross section of American life. They have sought advice on how best to realize our goal of a "creative partnership" between governmental and private effort to carry out the National Program for Voluntary Action.

As a result of these consultations, private voluntary action leaders now are ready, with our encouragement, to forrealize the private part of this national partnership. I am therefore announcing these actions today:

1. Creation of a nonprofit, nonpartisan National Center for Voluntary Action, which will encourage and assist effective voluntary action throughout the private sector. It will be established by distinguished private citizens working with government officials and using private funds.

2. Appointment of Mr. Fisher as Chairman of the National Center for Voluntary Action.

3. Appointment of W. Clement Stone of Chicago, an insurance executive and leader in voluntary action, to serve as Finance Committee Chairman of the National Center.

4. Appointment of the following leaders of the private voluntary sector to serve as members of a nominating committee, which will propose 80 to 90 private citizens for membership on the National Center's Board of Directors:

Arthur Ashe, Jr., First Service Insurance Agency, Inc., Richmond, Va.; Philip Bernstein, executive vice president, Council of Jewish Federations & Welfare Funds, New York, N.Y.; Arch N. Booth, executive vice president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C.; Victor Garter, president, retired chairman, Republic Pictures, Los Angeles, Calif.; Martin Castillo, Inter-Agency Committee on Mexican American Affairs, Washington, D.C.; Jack Conway, president, Center for Community Change, Washington, D.C.; Bayard Ewing, Graham, Reid, Ewing and Stapleton, Providence, R.I. (president-elect of United Funds & Councils of America, Inc. ); John W. Gardner, chairman, The Urban Coalition, Washington, D.C.; Miss Dorothy Height, president, National Council of Negro Women, Washington, D.C.; Mrs. Elsie Hillman, Standard Life Building, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Mrs. Laura Leonard, Westminister Community Center, Bell Gardens, Calif.; George Lindsay, attorney, Debevoise, Plimpton, Lyons and Gates, New York, N.Y.; Mrs. Alfred Anita Martinez, Dallas, Tex.; Aloysius A. Mazewski, president, Polish National Alliance of the US of NA, Northbrook, Ill.; Irwin Miller, president, Cummins Engine Co., Columbus, Ind.; Frank Pace, Jr., president, International Executive Service Corps, New York, N.Y.; Dr. W. Robert Parks, president, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa; Leo Perlis, director, AFL-CIO Department of Community Services, Washington, D.C.; Joseph Rhodes, Jr., Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; H. I. Romnes, chairman of the board, American Telephone and Telegraph Co., New York, N.Y.; Paul Sonnabend, executive vice president, Hotel Corporation of America, Boston, Mass.; William Toomey, Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, Calif.

5. The call for a conference involving several hundred leaders, representing every facet of American life, to meet in Washington this winter, where they will have an open opportunity to discuss, determine and support the organization and future direction of the Center, the overall mission of the National Program for Voluntary Action, and their participation in it.

The Cabinet Committee with Chairman Romney and the Office of Voluntary Action will continue to represent the governmental side of this national effort and will work in closest harmony with the National Center and representatives of the private sector.

The total National Program for Voluntary Action, on both the private and governmental sides, will aim to:

1. Help motivate vast numbers of citizens to get involved in local voluntary efforts.

2. Help requesting communities mobilize for greater and more effective voluntary action.

3. Collect and transmit successful experience and expertise for strengthening voluntary action at all levels.

4. Stimulate all governmental levels to cooperate fully in voluntary efforts.

5. Achieve greater recognition of the role of voluntary action and those individuals, organizations, and communities which excel in their contributions.

I am confident that the National Program for Voluntary Action will be a significant and helpful instrument for enabling many more individual Americans to make their needed contributions toward solving the pressing problems of their neighborhoods, their communities, their States, and their Nation.

Note: The text of a news briefing on the National Program for Voluntary Action by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development George W. Romney and Special Consultant on Voluntary Action Max M. Fisher was released by the White House Press Office on November 4, 1969.

An announcement on December 22, 1969, designating Charles B. (Bud) Wilkinson as the President of the National Center for Voluntary Action is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, P. 1778). The text of a news conference by Mr. Wilkinson was also released.

Richard Nixon, Statement About the National Program for Voluntary Action Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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