New Opportunities for Older Americans to Provide National Service

Resource type: Speech

Gara LaMarche |

Older Americans will have more opportunities to provide national service under the provisions of a new law, according to this speech by Gara LaMarche, The Atlantic Philanthropies’ President and CEO, in Washington to commemorate the signing of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in April 2009.

This is a tremendous day because it represents a giant stride toward the restoration of our national commitment to a strong social contract which promises justice and equity.

We now have a government that recognizes that our country has an obligation to assure a just and fair society for all. The Kennedy Service Act, now law, will provide an enormous boost for national service. It reflects our core values as a people and demands that all of us do what we are capable of doing to contribute to reflect and uphold this vision in our own lives and actions.

We are proud to see included in this landmark law key provisions that The Atlantic Philanthropies and the organizations we support have long worked for, including:

  • Encore Fellows of 55 and older placed in non-profit organizations
  • Silver Scholarships for active volunteers that they or their children, foster children, or grandchildren can use for higher education
  • Vastly increased AmeriCorps slots for older adults

All of these provide potent testimony to the progress we have made in making it possible for older Americans to contribute more fully as the tremendous assets they are in our society. We build greater generational equity in to the social contract, and we provide many more opportunities for older Americans to participate in addressing our most urgent challenges and tenacious problems.

We thank Senator Harris Wofford for championing this bill and its cause for many long years, leading to this special day. We welcome Maria Eitel as the new CEO of the Corporation for National Service, and everyone in this room, richly populated by the leaders of key service organizations like Public Allies, City Year, Citizen Schools, Youth Build, Points of Light and so many others, are eager and ready to work with you to make the most of this historic opportunity.

We are grateful to the President for his leadership on this issue and salute the lifelong commitment of Senator Kennedy and the entire Kennedy family to a fair, just, and inclusive America.

We recognise with pride our grantees, John Gomperts and Civic Ventures for their tireless efforts to assure that older adults are included in service opportunities, and Greg O’Neil of the Gerontological Society of America and Brian Lindberg of Experience Wave for their support of Senator Wofford’s efforts and for organising this long-awaited celebration.