By Former Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.) and David Eisner, president and CEO, National Constitution Center
Local governments rely increasingly on service organizations to fill the gaps in services they can no longer afford to provide on their own. The programs supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service enable volunteers to tutor and mentor students during the school day, run after-school programs, and assist food banks and other service agencies. These national service participants and volunteers provide low-cost, high-yield “boots on the ground” badly needed in communities throughout the country. On the other side of the equation, demand to serve has been rising steadily, with 562,000 applications for 82,000 AmeriCorps positions in 2011 alone. In the last two years, nearly one million applications to serve this country were rejected. With demand at this level, Congress should not keep the Corporation operating without a leader, when an outstanding one is at hand, approved by the Senate committee.
In addition to her leadership of Volunteer Florida, President George W. Bush appointed Spencer to his Council on Service and Civic Participation, and she served as chair of America’s Service Commissions.
Her tenure in Florida gave her experience in turning around an agency that faced audits and challenges that only a highly skilled CEO like Spencer could fix. She has faced tough challenges, made tough choices and the Florida service and volunteer community is stronger for it. We need that now at the Corporation.
Inaction on this nomination reflects poorly on Congress. Unlike many of the confirmations being held up by Congress, this is not a lifetime appointment. Wendy Spencer comes with strong bipartisan credentials, a Republican first appointed to the Florida leadership for national service by Governor Jeb Bush. The Senate should recognize and respect that President Obama reached across the aisle to choose her.
Local economies are in trouble, people are in need of immediate assistance, recent disasters require responses, and hundreds of thousands of Americans are applying to serve, demonstrating their commitment to developing community solutions. These trying times require strong and able leadership. Wendy Spencer is that caliber of leader.
Confirming her is a small step for Congress to take, but will be a large step for We the People.
Wofford, former U.S. Senator (D-Pa.), and Eisner, president & CEO of the National Constitution Center, served as CEOs of the Corporation for National & Community Service under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush respectively. Both were approved by the Senate HELP Committee and went on to receive confirmation from the Senate.