1 of 6 | U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-MA, before signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act at the SEED Public Charter School on April 21, 2009. Obama called on Americans to serve their communities and work together to tackle tough challenges. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg) | License Photo
WASHINGTON, April 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday signed a national service bill that dramatically expands the AmeriCorps work force over the next 10 years.
The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act will "connect deeds to needs," Obama said during the signing ceremony at the SEED School of Washington, a pubic boarding school.
Sitting behind Obama were Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Kennedy, instrumental in generating the broad support the bill enjoyed as it moved through Congress. Obama recognized the efforts of the men both in Congress and in public service, noting "very few people that have touched the life of this nation in ... the same order of magnitude" as Kennedy.
Among other things, the act provides $6 billion in funding through 2010 for service organizations and expands AmeriCorps slots from 75,000 this year to 250,000 within the next decade, Obama said.
Obama called the act the "boldest expansion" of service opportunities since the creation of AmeriCorps under President Bill Clinton.
Public service is a win-win situation, he said, because it enriches the volunteer and strengthens the country, Obama said. It also is something that anyone can fulfill, no matter the age, circumstance or location.
"That's beauty of service -- anybody can do it," he said.
After the signing ceremony, Obama said he, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, and Clinton will plant trees in a park not far from the school.
"You don't need to be a community organizer or a senator or a Kennedy or even a president," Obama said to chuckles, "to bring change to people's lives."