On December 5, 2007, just a few weeks before the Iowa caucuses launched him to the front of the race in the Democratic primary, then-Candidate Barack Obama issued a pledge to expand national service in America. To a thousand Iowans at Cornell College he called national service not just an idea, but a central cause of his presidency.
On that day four years ago, he outlined a sweeping expansion of America’s service programs to harness the idealism and ingenuity of citizens in building a more perfect union. In his first address to Congress, President Obama asked for speedy progress in passing legislation to define such a new era of service.
A bipartisan group of Members of Congress worked together to craft and enact legislation embodying this bold new vision for national and community service. At its passing (with co-sponsorship by Senators Hatch, Kennedy, McCain, Mikulski and others) they named it the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, and sent it to the President for signature less than 100 days into his presidency. Leaders on both sides of the aisle hailed the bipartisan recognition of the value of engaging citizens in new and effective ways to help meet the challenges of our time.