U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Americans to do more volunteer work for their communities. The president spoke Friday in Texas, at a program sponsored by former President George H.W. Bush.
President Obama says private citizens working together can accomplish many things that are not a part of the government's responsibility. "While there is plenty that government can do and must do to keep our families safe and our planet clean and our markets free and fair, there is a lot that government cannot and should not do. And that is where active, engaged citizens come in. That is the purpose of service in this nation," he said.
Mr. Obama signed legislation in April, tripling the size of the "AmeriCorps" community service program. He also started a "United We Serve" volunteer program that ended with a national day of service on September 11.
The president says record numbers of young Americans are taking part in community service projects and joining volunteer organizations. "Last year, applications to City Year tripled and the Peace Corps had three applicants for every position. AmeriCorps applications were up 400 percent in just the first four months of this year alone," he says.
Mr. Obama spoke Friday at a community service forum at Texas A&M University. He appeared with former President George H.W. Bush, who sponsored the program and praised the current president's commitment to encouraging service. "Our 44th president is absolutely right, that there is not a more important time than now for us all to get involved," he said.
President Obama praised Mr. Bush, a Republican, for working with his successor, Democrat Bill Clinton, to speed relief to survivors of the Asian tsunami in 2005. He said the two former presidents set a good example by putting service above politics. "The 'R' or 'D' next to your name is irrelevant when nations in crisis need the world's help, that certain moments call on all of us to stop the back-and-forth and the bickering, to forget the old rivalries and embrace a common purpose that is bigger than our differences," he said.
Mr. Obama appearance in Texas was the last stop on a two-day trip which included a visit to parts of New Orleans, Louisiana that have not been rebuilt, four years after being hit by Hurricane Katrina.