by Rep. Matt Wilhelm – Jul 21, 2019 (UnionLeader.com)
While every candidate agrees that expanding voluntary civilian service opportunities is an excellent idea, only one has accepted the Serve America Together Challenge, and in doing so offered a detailed national service plan that recognizes the power of service to remake ourselves and our country.
That candidate is South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
At its core, citizenship is about service — working as a community toward a common purpose to achieve something greater than ourselves. It may sound lofty, but that’s how our city, state, and nation were built: individuals who wanted to make a difference and shape history through their actions both big and small.
To reinvigorate communities across the country, Mayor Pete’s visionary national service plan calls for fully funding the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, increasing AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 positions. By 2026, those ranks will swell to 1 million members annually.
But more than scale, it’s about substance and strategy — and with its attention to detail, this plan has the clear fingerprints of a mayor. I was particularly inspired by Mayor Pete’s commitment to empowering local leaders to create and expand service-year positions that address the most pressing challenges facing their communities, like affordable housing, the opioid and mental health crises, and educational inequity here in New Hampshire.
As a City Year AmeriCorps alumnus and now as a state service commissioner with Volunteer NH, I can attest to the power of service to transform our community. After college, I joined City Year New Hampshire to lead a team of AmeriCorps members serving as full-time tutors, mentors and role models in under-resourced schools. My team was made up of young people from all different walks of life from across the country. Together, we witnessed the lives of the students we cared about change for the better because of our efforts to keep them in school and on track to graduate.
Having witnessed the power of national service, it has been my top policy priority as a state representative. Mayor Pete Buttigieg understands the power and potential of national service, too. That’s why I’m proud to support his campaign for President of the United States. And come January 2021, I look forward to having a partner in the Oval Office who is as excited as I am about scaling up national service and getting our democracy back on track.
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