But from President Clinton's definition of volunteerism, to the summit's virtual snubbing of churches and other religious bodies which, according to the Gallup organization, already contribute 60 per cent of the volunteer effort in this country, it quickly becomes clear that this summit is a stealth way to expand government programs and government's reach in spite of a growing awareness of government's inability to reach beyond externals and enter the human heart and soul, where the core of the problem lies.
In his radio address Saturday, the president called for $2.75 billion in additional spending to teach children to read by the end of the third grade. He wants another $300 million for "challenge grants" to help parents help children become effective readers. And he's trying to keep the AmeriCorps "volunteer" program alive in the face of Republican attempts to cut this boondoggle. AmeriCorps participants receive living allowances and nearly $5,000 a year for college. When people are paid, they can hardly be considered volunteers.
According to the official volunteer summit Web page on the Internet, there are 15 million at-risk people in America.
Are there enough volunteers who have the time, resources, skills and motivation to separate themselves from the responsibilities they should be exercising with their own children to make sure an at-risk child does his homework and receives love and nuture?
Can a volunteer convince a young girl she is valuable so she won't confuse love with sex and bear children out of wedlock or have an abortion?
Will cleaning graffiti from walls in a photo opportunity mean that graffiti will never return? Only if the graffiti of life is removed from the heart.
Instead of this summit on volunteerism, it would have been better to have a summit on liberalism and secularism, two twin evils that have brought forth upon this continent conditions that all the volunteers in the world cannot reverse. The list of horrors is long and getting longer.
More than a million people are incarcerated. Streets are unsafe and entire neighborhoods are unlivable because of crime and the fear of crime.
Social, psychological, physical and spiritual disease from the consequences of sexual permissiveness and hedonistic living stalk the nation.
"The Divorce Culture," as Barbara Dafoe Whitehead calls it in her new book, is devastating young lives unto the third and fourth generation.
Materiaism has convinced us that only things can make us happy, although the acquisition doesn't seem to produce contentment for many. King Solomon had it right three millenia ago, when he said, " "...so I hated life because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me...I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me."
Better than a call for "volunteers" to improve the reading skills of children would be the type of call issued by another president in the face of the Great Depression and a coming World War.
In a radio address to the nation Feb. 23, 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt said, " No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of religion--revival that would sweep through the homes of the nation and stir the hearts of men and women of all faiths to a reassertion of their belief in God and their dedication to His will for themselves and for their world. I doubt if there is any problem--social, political or economic--that would not melt away before the fire of such a spiritual awakening."
May 1 is our National Day of Prayer. Perhaps directing our requests for that "spiritual awakening" about what Roosevelt spoke might produce more powerful and longer lasting results than President Clinton's secular summit.--Cal Thomas