Text of Remarks: Lloyd Pierson to the U.N. General Assembly

Remarks for Lloyd Pierson to Deliver to the
United Nations General Assembly
In Recognition of
2001 International Year of Volunteers

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Mr. President, Honored Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am pleased to represent the United States of America in my remarks before the United Nations General Assembly in support of volunteerism both in the United States and internationally.

In the United States, the Points of Light Foundation and the Association of Junior Leagues International partnered to convene and lead the United States International Year of Volunteers Steering Committee. This Committee has assembled a broad community of 1,121 organizations representing all fifty states and has brought new recognition to volunteerism. The U.S. registry includes a diversity of organizations from every socio-economic bracket, a wide array of ethnic and racial diversity, and a broad spectrum of generations. Examples include Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Rotarians, Student Government Associations, and HIV/AIDS outreach groups. The list is a who’s who of volunteer organizations. And the number of groups continues to grow.

America, and the administration of President George Bush, actively supports volunteerism—and in fact it was one of the cornerstones of our society even before we achieved independence. As early as the 1820s, a famous visitor to the United States—Alexis de Toqueville, in his masterpiece “Democracy in America” had already identified “volunteerism” as one of the most visible characteristics of the new nation—and as one of the attributes that most distinguished us from the old world. Almost two centuries later, we can still point to de Toqueville’s insight with great pride and marvel that we were and remain a nation of volunteers.

I have the honor and privilege of being a part of the President’s administration as Acting Deputy Director of the Peace Corps. Peace Corps has been a major part of my life, and that of my family. Previously, I have served as Country Director in Ghana, Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland and helped establish programs in Zimbabwe, Armenia, Bulgaria and Uzbekistan.

Many in this General Assembly have had first-hand experience with United States Peace Corps Volunteers. It is very common for an Ambassador to say that an American Volunteer taught them in secondary school. It is with great satisfaction that
we can say that frequently a Peace Corps volunteer has been able to make a difference in someone’s life. At times, that someone has later occupied high level positions in his or her government. A case in point is the story of Dr. Alejandro Toledo, the President of Peru, who credits in his early life the help of two Peace Corps Volunteers. We are very proud that he has accepted the National Peace Corps Association’s invitation to be the keynote speaker at the Peace Corps 40th anniversary celebrations in June of next year.

In the United States, seven current members of the United States Congress have served as Peace Corps Volunteers.

When faced with challenges such as illiteracy, poverty, crime and environmental problems, America has always relied upon the dedication and action of the volunteer community. Today, many, many groups have discovered the hunger in people’s hearts to help others, and their overwhelming willingness to do so. America’s International Year of Volunteers Steering Committee established a goal to celebrate and advocate volunteerism around the world through a strategy of awareness, engagement and capacity building.

Nowhere is this strategy more clearly demonstrated than during and following the tragic events of September 11. As workers in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, as well as others throughout the United States demonstrated, volunteers are the very core to our survival as a society.

We witnessed the teams of vstrated, volunteers are the very core to our survival as a society.

We witnessed the teams of volunteer firemen who traveled hundreds of miles to work at ground zero and the volunteers of the American Red Cross who continue to help the survivors and their families cope with the aftermath. Proof that our willingness to help others is evident in the neighbor who spends hours preparing meals, takes care of a survivor\'s child, or simply lends an ear to listen. Each of these people, each of these actions, makes an important difference.

Many individuals throughout America devote much of their time and energy to helping others. This help is generally provided through government, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, corporations and faith-based groups. The United States government is a strong advocate of volunteerism both domestic and internationally.

The U.S. government also partners through Peace Corps with the United Nations Volunteer Program, described as “one of the hidden jewels of the UN system.” Close to 5,000 men and women representing over 150 nationalities are serving each year in developing countries as UN Volunteers. This year alone, the UNV program mobilized 900 UN volunteers to serve in the UN mission in East Timor. These efforts are lead by Kevin Gilroy, a former Peace Corps Volunteer.

Domestically, the Corporation for National and Community Service carries on the volunteer tradition by working with state commissions, non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, schools and other civic and community organizations to provide volunteer opportunities for all Americans. The Corporation for National and Community Service has three major service initiatives: AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America and the National Senior Service Corps.

AmeriCorps engages more than 50,000 Americans in intensive, results-driven service. On November 8th of this year, President Bush called for the Corporation to mobilize more than 20,000 new Senior Corps and AmeriCorps participants in the coming year to support police departments, fire departments, our parks and recreation departments; public health agencies; and disaster preparedness and mitigation to assist the personnel in those agencies.

Many schools are discovering the value of service learning through projects that link education and service. At the forefront of this movement is Learn and Serve America, which helps support nearly one million students from kindergarten through college who are meeting community needs while improving their academic skills and learning the habits of good citizenship.

And we should not forget the important role that senior citizens can make as volunteers. In our society, we strongly support senior citizens to pass along their knowledge and experience to others through volunteer work. Seniors are one of America\'s most vital resources, offering a wealth of experience and energy. Through the National Senior Service Corps, nearly half a million Americans, age fifty-five and older, share their time and talents to help solve local problems.

President George H.W. Bush founded the Points of Light Foundation in 1990 as a non-partisan, non-profit organization devoted to promoting volunteer community service. Through its network of over 500 volunteer centers, the Foundation strives to bring people together through volunteer service as a powerful way to combat alienation and alleviate social problems. Dr. Norman Brown, Chairman of the Points of Light Foundation, has done an exemplary job over the past year to lead the U.S. IYV efforts.

Outstanding non-profit and non-government supported organizations are also plentiful in the United States. Another important leader in the U. S. International Year of the Volunteer effort has been Clotilde Dedecker, former President of the Association of Junior Leagues International. This Association represents 296 Junior Leagues in the United States, Canada, Mexico and ernational. This Association represents 296 Junior Leagues in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Great Britain. For over 100 years, Junior Leagues have promoted volunteerism, working toward developing the full potential of women and improving local communities.

The 193,000 dedicated and creative women members come from varying backgrounds and interests. These talented women discovered back in 1901 the extraordinary power in volunteer numbers. Junior Leagues across the U.S. have award-winning programs addressing the needs of homeless and near-homeless women and children, family violence and abuse prevention, comprehensive day care and short-term respite care for children affected by HIV/AIDS, and legal, housing and employment assistance.

The Honorable Colin Powell, the U. S. Secretary of State, founded America’s Promise in 1997. Following a Presidential Summit attended by President Clinton, President Bush, President Carter, President Ford, with First Lady Nancy Reagan representing her husband, a challenge came forth for America to make our youth a national priority. America’s Promise has created a diverse and growing alliance of nearly 500 national organizations to build upon the character and competence of our Nation’s youth.

Countless other volunteer organizations help Americans to address their problems everyday.

In support of international volunteerism, the government of the United States created and supports the Peace Corps. Founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the history of the Peace Corps is the story of tens of thousands of people who have served as Volunteers. Their individual experiences in towns, villages and cities around the world have composed a legacy of service that has become part of America’s history. Peace Corps Volunteers teach English, work in business development, the environment, agriculture, health and community development. We also have special programs in HIV/AIDS and technology.

The Peace Corps Crisis Corps program has helped mobilize Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to help on disaster relief projects. Currently, America has over 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers in 70 countries around the world. More than 163,000 volunteers have served in 135 countries during the past forty years.

As President John F. Kennedy dispatched the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to Ghana in 1961, he made a prediction: “The logic of the Peace Corps is that someday we are going to bring it home to America.” It is on this foundation that Peace Corps 40 years ago began developing what is called its third goal, which is to help educate Americans about the country in which they served.

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have formed in the United States a “Friends Of” group, ranging from the Friends of Afghanistan to the Friends of Zambia. These groups help to educate Americans about the Volunteers’ country of service.

Peace Corps has a formal program called the Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools Program, in which current Volunteers are matched with schools in the United States to help educate students about their country of service. Peace Corps and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have been active in helping educate Americans about their service. As one Volunteer from Central Asia was quoted on a United States television network, “I have a family in the United States that I love, but I also love my host country family.”

As the U.N. Secretary General eloquently stated in his report to the General Assembly earlier this year: “Volunteerism is an important component of any strategy aimed at poverty reduction, sustainable development and social integration, in particular overcoming social exclusion and discrimination.”

Recently, President and Mrs. Bush have focused our attention to the plight of the children and women of Afghanistan. Children all across the country have responded with remarkablhe children and women of Afghanistan. Children all across the country have responded with remarkable generosity and deep compassion for Afghan children by sending in a dollar towards relief efforts for Afghan children. The First Lady has drawn our attention to efforts assisting the Afghan women. In the first ever radio address by a First Lady, Laura Bush stated, “Fighting brutality against women and children is not the expression of a specific culture; it is the acceptance of our common humanity—a commitment shared by people of good will on every continent."

I am very proud to have been able to speak about America’s efforts to promote volunteerism as we close the International Year of the Volunteer. We have enjoyed excellent leadership from those individuals I have mentioned here today, as well as the countless thousands who find the time to volunteer their efforts, skills and time each and every day. I’m certain they would agree with Simone Weil when she stated “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

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