Good evening friends of AmeriCorps. My name is Jack Moline. I am the rabbi of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, VA, and I serve as Vice-chair of The Interfaith Alliance, a coalition of leadership from the many and diverse faith communities across this country. I am here today to speak with you in each of those capacities.
I was invited to speak to you from a faith-based perspective. It seems to me that there is no greater faith-based perspective than the faith in America that has drawn over 350,000 Americans from every walk of life to devote their time and energy to making the blessings of this society more accessible to more people. Some came because they heard God calling to serve those in need. Some came because they heard America calling just as it called their forebears to these shores. Some came because they heard a friend or mentor calling…on the telephone to share the excitement of making a difference in people’s lives. As a rabbi, as someone whose life is devoted to accompanying people on their quest for meaning, I cannot imagine a better way to travel a portion of that life-long road.
Some Americans devote a part of their lives to the foreign service, representing our interests to other countries and other cultures. Some devote a part of their lives to military service, defending the interests and principles of our country against those who would destroy them. Some devote a part of their lives to public service as civil servants and elected officials, enabling our country to run its infrastructure for the benefit of all its citizens. That devotion, that offering of time and effort, is the tangible expression of the values each person holds sacred. It is faith in action.
And some Americans are willing to devote a part of their lives to national service, preserving our environmental resources, teaching our children, repairing our neighborhoods, feeding our hungry. My goodness, if foreign service, military service and public service are worth the recognition from a grateful nation, then national service is, too. And if the Senators and Representatives who allocate public monies will fund diplomats, soldiers and civil servants, then they should feel equally privileged and obligated to fund conservationists, educators and technicians.
As a Vice-chair of The Interfaith Alliance, I find myself equally concerned that AmeriCorps and its critical work not be exploited by those who would legalize discrimination in hiring and funding. There are so many places in our society that are divided by the labels we give to ourselves and others. AmeriCorps workers reach across those divides and work together to build a society envisioned by Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman, Emma Lazarus and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and every President of the United States – a place of equal opportunity and mutual responsibility, where people are judged not by the color of their skin, not by their place of worship, not by any aspect of their orientation, but by the content of their character.
The character of this President, of these Senators, of these Members of Congress will be judged on the tangible expression of the values they each hold sacred. And that means I expect that, with no strings attached, we will see a restoration of full funding for AmeriCorps.