Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by CEO Michael D. Smith at the AmeriCorps 30th Anniversary Kickoff Event
Michael D. Smith, the eighth CEO of AmeriCorps, gave remarks during a virtual kickoff event celebrating the 30th anniversary of AmeriCorps on September 21, 2023. You can watch the entire kickoff event here.
CEO Smith's remarks as prepared are below.
Hello, everybody. Thank you again for joining us today.
If you weren’t already a steadfast believer in the power of community and national service, I’m sure you are now!
These stories of impact and inspiration—from so many leaders in our AmeriCorps family—show us that AmeriCorps truly is bigger than a moment … it’s a movement. And it’s changing lives.
So, I want to take this moment to say thank you.
To our members, volunteers, alumni, grantees, state commissions, and so many other partners: Your leadership reminds us, each and every day, that AmeriCorps really does bring out the best in America.
And to my colleagues and team at the agency – thank you for doing the heavy lifting that brought us all together today, and for all that you continue to do to make this anniversary so memorable.
Thirty years ago, our country decided to bet on this idea called national service. We believed that if we created opportunities for people to devote their time and talent to service … to learn new skills and meet new people…
That they would transform lives, including their own.
That they would turn a one-year commitment into a lifetime of giving back.
And as you’ve seen today, that bet has paid off.
For 30 years, every time America called, AmeriCorps answered! Our country is counting on us to be there for the challenges that lay ahead—AND the challenges currently on our doorstep.
Challenges like climate change.
Yesterday, President Biden announced the groundbreaking American Climate Corps—and he tapped AmeriCorps with leading the way, working with our partners at the Departments of Labor, Energy, Interior, Agriculture, and NOAA.
Through service, 20,000 Americans—about three-quarters of whom will be AmeriCorps members—will develop the skills they need for the green workforce of the future … all while taking steps to give our planet what it needs today.
Whether they’re rebuilding coastal wetlands to protect communities from storm surges, managing forests to prevent catastrophic wildfires, or helping families save money on energy bills … they are building a brighter, more resilient future for the next generation.
And one of the first big announcements from this partnership is the creation of AmeriCorps NCCC Forest Corps—a 5-year, $15 million partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. This is the kind of innovative, collaborative, future-focused programming that will usher in a new era of service for our country.
To better ensure we are ready for this new era—and continue to build this powerful movement—we also need to be honest about what’s NOT working. And we need to commit to systemic changes that will breathe new life into our mission.
That’s why we’re continuing to raise living allowances and stipends for AmeriCorps Seniors … to better ensure that community and national service aren’t just a privilege for the few, but an opportunity for the many.
We’re also continuing to modernize and overhaul our technology, our application process and our policies. Just last year, we overhauled our match waiver to make it easier and faster for grantees to get the match relief they need. And by the end of 2024, I will personally pull the plug on e-grants and introduce a newly modernized member portal. We cannot let bureaucratic policies and spools of red tape become a “do not enter” sign for communities that have been overlooked for far too long.
Finally, we will continue to get proximate. That means ensuring that our requirements, benefits, and services reflect the unique needs of the communities we aim to serve. That means lifting up local leaders, local experts, and local ideas.
And we’re doing all of this because service isn’t just central to AmeriCorps … it is an indispensable building block for a healthy, vibrant and thriving democracy.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used to say: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
To our members and alumni who showed up to a school that everyone else had given up on … you took the first step.
To those who were a shoulder to lean on for our elders after a loss or a medical emergency … you took the first step.
To those who slept in church basements and sleeping bags after hours of mucking and gutting homes … you took the first step.
And you’ve left behind completed staircases of dreams realized, hope restored, and faith renewed. You are AmeriCorps. You are America. And you get things done!
Today, I am thrilled that I get to lead new AmeriCorps members in taking the AmeriCorps pledge!
Our first team—joining us from Aurora, Colorado—is the newest class of Team Leaders in the AmeriCorps NCCC Southwest Region. They only just arrived at their campus last week. After completing their training, they will be sent off across the country to lead NCCC teams on projects supporting affordable housing, food security, the environment, disaster response, and other urgent community needs. NCCC, will you join us on camera?
Our second team of AmeriCorps members joins us from Wichita, Kansas where they are serving at Storytime Village! These members are supporting the VISTA project at Storytime Village that’s recruiting community members as tutors and mentors so that children at local Title 1 schools have the resources they need to become strong readers and writers.
Our third group of AmeriCorps members joins us from the San Francisco Bay area from Life Long Medical, an AmeriCorps State and National Grantee. These AmeriCorps Health Fellows serve side-by-side with health center staff providing culturally appropriate health education, referrals, and enrollment into programs for community members and patients while learning the skills they need to pursue a health care profession.
Welcome AmeriCorps members!
And if you’re watching from home, you’re welcome to join in because taking the AmeriCorps pledge is something that can inspire all Americans to serve.
Please raise your right hand and repeat after me:
I will get things done for America –
To make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member,
And I will get things done.
Congratulations and thank you for your service!
It was so great to be with ALL of you today.
And please, don’t forget what we’ve asked of you …
If you are a member or a part of our alumni group, please share your story. You can inspire others to act. We’ll share those links again in the chat.
And I want to end with just one more ask: celebrate with us.
You all know how to bring people together! Reunite with folks you served with – have a 30th anniversary party. Tap into those potlucks days and movie nights you all organized together.
You can also brand your existing events as 30th anniversary events and register them on AmeriCorps.gov. We have toolkits to help you get started – you’ll find social media posts, press templates, graphics and more.
You can also email Celebrate30@cns.gov for support.
AmeriCorps is a movement, that you can—and I hope you do—carry with you throughout your lifetime. It’s a movement we all continue to build together.
I’m looking forward to celebrating with you all year long.