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Faith leads volunteers to valuable work
Faith-based volunteering can help make the world a better place.

Date published: 10/17/2004

ST. LOUIS--The French prime minis- ter during World War I, Georges Clemenceau, famously said, "War is too important to be left to the generals."

As the political leader of a free and democratic nation, he zeroed in on the importance for civilian leaders, and citizens, to take responsibility for their own national-security policies and operations.

By analogy I'd like to propose: Peace is too important to be left to professional diplomats. Of course we need the skills and commitment of professional diplomats and development specialists, just as we need expert professional military leadership.

But it's absolutely vital that we also have volunteers to carry out America's involvement in promoting global prosperity, health, good governance, and the other fundamentals of peace.

For this reason, President Kennedy and Sargent Shriver had the vision to create the Peace Corps: an opportunity to let talented and spirited volunteers work with career specialists to promote health, education, and economic growth in developing countries.

President Bush has said: "Government can't love."

The president says, "Government can't put hope in a person's heart, or a sense of purpose in a person's life. That is done by loving individuals who spread their love."

Works of compassion come freely from the individual human heart, through voluntary associations, many of these communities inspired by religious faith.

This is why President Bush established the offices of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which help to allow faith-based organizations to participate freely and effectively in cooperation with government programs in works of compassion.

Related to this is another initiative of President Bush's: Volunteers for Prosperity.

Announced last year, this is a companion program to the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps requires its volunteers to serve continuously for at least two years overseas.

About 7,500 Peace Corps volunteers currently are in the field. President Bush is committed to increasing the Peace Corps budget and the number of Peace Corps volunteers.

Meanwhile, the president also perceived a need to promote and coordinate efforts by American professionals to donate their time for shorter, more flexible terms of service consistent with the United States' overall strategy for global peace and prosperity.

Scores of thousands of skilled Americans already are serving, or are available to serve, in such short-term volunteer assignments.

Here is how Volunteers for Prosperity works:

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