In his State of the Union address tonight, Jan. 29, 2002, President Bush called for the creation of a USA Freedom Corps. As part of this he asked all Americans to devote 2 years of volunteer service over the remainder of their lives to the service of their nation and their neighbors. He also called for creation of a Homeland Security Corps and expansion of the pre-existing AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Peace Corps programs. He seemed to be saying these various programs would together become the new USA Freedom Corps.

This quote is from the transcript of the speech posted on the Whitehouse website under Office of the Press Secretary.

"For too long our culture has said, "If it feels good, do it." Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: "Let's roll." (Applause.) In the sacrifice of soldiers, the fierce brotherhood of firefighters, and the bravery and generosity of ordinary citizens, we have glimpsed what a new culture of responsibility could look like. We want to be a nation that serves goals larger than self. We've been offered a unique opportunity, and we must not let this moment pass. (Applause.)

My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years -- 4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime -- to the service of your neighbors and your nation. (Applause.) Many are already serving, and I thank you. If you aren't sure how to help, I've got a good place to start. To sustain and extend the best that has emerged in America, I invite you to join the new USA Freedom Corps. The Freedom Corps will focus on three areas of need: responding in case of crisis at home; rebuilding our communities; and extending American compassion throughout the world.

One purpose of the USA Freedom Corps will be homeland security. America needs retired doctors and nurses who can be mobilized in major emergencies; volunteers to help police and fire departments; transportation and utility workers well-trained in spotting danger.

Our country also needs citizens working to rebuild our communities. We need mentors to love children, especially children whose parents are in prison. And we need more talented teachers in troubled schools. USA Freedom Corps will expand and improve the good efforts of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps to recruit more than 200,000 new volunteers.

And America needs citizens to extend the compassion of our country to every part of the world. So we will renew the promise of the Peace Corps, double its volunteers over the next five years -- (applause) -- and ask it to join a new effort to encourage development and education and opportunity in the Islamic world. (Applause.)

This time of adversity offers a unique moment of opportunity -- a moment we must seize to change our culture. Through the gathering momentum of millions of acts of service and decency and kindness, I know we can overcome evil with greater good. (Applause.) And we have a great opportunity during this time of war to lead the world toward the values that will bring lasting peace."

In my albeit biased and small sample of people who are deeply concerned and involved in national community service with AmeriCorps, the phrase "Freedom Corps" is a jingoistic joke: Like Freedom Fries or Freedom Toast. I'm not even exactly sure what Freedom Corps has uniquely accomplished. Well, they do have a spiffy website with a George W. Bush photo-op and a half-sensical Dubya quote on every page. There's even USA Freedom Corps for Kids.

It's also interesting to note that AmeriCorps very nearly lost a huge chunk of its existing funding in the year following President Bush's "Let's Roll," speech. Jus' Sayin'.

Nevertheless, volunteering one or more years of one's life is an awesome and life changing thing to do at any age, and it would be a shame for the message to be lost because of the messenger.

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