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Hillary Clinton announced Friday that she wants to enlist 5 million new volunteers into a “National Service Reserve” aimed at 18- to 30-year-olds.
“What if we strengthen the culture of service in America so it wasn’t just something we did one day a year, but it became a regular part of our lives?” she asked at a Florida rally on the topic of national service on Friday.
The former secretary of state argued that her volunteer plan would help combat growing self-segregation in America, where people surround themselves with people who think, talk, look and read the same news as they do. “That comes with a cost. It magnifies our differences,” she said, adding that the election has drawn attention to that trend. “Then it makes it harder to put those differences aside when our country needs us.”
Reservists, under Clinton’s plan, would respond to natural disasters, help the homeless or tackle other local problems, the campaign said. Under the plan, they would be eligible for college credit, time off from work, or even a “modest stipend,” based on financial need, to participate in the Reserve. (Clinton will negotiate with higher education institutions and corporations to get those benefits.)
Clinton also wants to expand AmeriCorps, a paid-service organization, from 75,000 members to 250,000, and expand the Peace Corps for those who want to volunteer abroad. The “ultimate goal” is that anyone who wants to serve full time will be able to do so, Clinton said in her speech. Part of the plan is also aimed at adding volunteer opportunities for Americans over 55 by increasing slots for them in AmeriCorps and involving them in other volunteer organizations.
A Clinton campaign aide said the program offers a contrast to Trump’s “self-centered message” during a week in which he has feuded with a former beauty queen on Twitter and in interviews. “As we see Trump focused on making sexist and derogatory comments and dividing the country, we are going to continue to run a campaign that’s about bringing the country together,” the aide said of Clinton’s national service speech.
The plan also offers an opportunity for the candidate to emphasize her own record of service for children — which could help combat her high unfavorable ratings — while also reaching out to voters under 30.
Clinton has struggled to consolidate support among millennials, whose votes she needs to win crucial swing states like Florida and North Carolina. Earlier this month, she gave a speech aimed at the group, admitting that many of them have doubts about her but vowing to win their support. Her top surrogates, including Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders, have fanned out on college campuses in battleground states to urge young voters to back Clinton and to tout her plan to make college “debt free” for middle-class families.
The campaign noted that millennials are particularly interested in volunteerism and that five times as many people apply for AmeriCorps than get accepted.