Serve America Act

In 2008, Senator Kennedy and Senator Hatch introduced the Serve America Act to expand and improve national service opportunities for Americans at all stages of life. The Serve America Act uses service to meet specific national challenges – from tackling the dropout crisis and safeguarding the environment to improving health care in low-income communities and expanding economic opportunities for low-income individuals. In a fitting tribute, Kennedy’s colleagues renamed the legislation, “The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.” Kennedy, battling brain cancer, attended and delivered remarks at the bill signing with President Obama.

Remarks of Senator Edward M. Kennedy at the Signing of the Serve America Act
April 21, 2009 | SEED School, Washington, D.C.

"In his inaugural address, President Kennedy emphasized service to others, and touched a deeply responsive chord when he called upon Americans of all ages to ask what they could do for their country. The best of the old frontier became the defining quality of the New Frontier. Citizens responded by the millions, and the spirit of America soared again, as it had so often in the past. We need to rekindle that attitude again for our own day and generation… We do not have to compel citizens to serve their country. All we have to do is ask – and provide the opportunity. "

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This is a wonderful day for our country, and for all Americans who will now have the opportunity to give back to their communities and to this nation we love so much.

Special thanks to Barbara Mikulski, who gave her heart and incredible leadership to bring us to this day. And to Orrin Hatch, our partner from the beginning, who helped us win broad bipartisan support.

To Senator Enzi, Chairman Miller and Congressman McKeon, all champions of the cause, we thank you.

And a very special thank you to all who serve. This bill was forged by you.

I will never forget the 5th anniversary of the Peace Corps where I sat with the very first group of volunteers. I asked each of them why they decided to get involved. They said it was the first time anyone asked them to do anything for their country.

Today, another young president has challenged another generation to give back to their country.

Last spring, at Wesleyan University, candidate Barack Obama summoned our nation to a new era of service. He said: "I believe with all my heart that this generation is ready and eager and up to the challenge."

Mr. President, I couldn't agree with you more. You have inspired a new generation of Americans with your own example and your call to service.

You have walked the walk --and today, you pave the way for others.

I am deeply honored to introduce him now. My friend, our leader, the President of the United States.