- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

ATLANTA President Bush yesterday called on senior citizens and aspiring teachers to join his brigade of volunteers, saying the events of September 11 can yield some good if Americans change their "if it feels good, do it" attitude.

"My dream is to change that culture to one in which each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life," the president said to hundreds of black students and teachers at Booker T. Washington High School, once attended by slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

"We can change use the evil to help usher in a period of personal responsibility," he said.

Mr. Bush called on the hundreds of students packed into a sweltering gymnasium to contemplate King's life when deciding their own futures.

"I want the students to understand something about his life. It goes to show that an individual can make a huge difference in the lives of our fellow citizens," he said.

"For those of you who have yet to graduate from high school, who are wondering what life might hold for you, wondering what your career might be, please give teaching a consideration. There's no better way to leave a positive mark on the life of America."

Traveling with Education Secretary Rod Paige, Mr. Bush lauded a program called Teach for America, founded by Wendy Kopp. Mr. Bush noted there are more than 8,000 teachers and alumni from the program.

"Out of an idea came the desire to convince folks to teach in schools that are having trouble to get teachers. And she had succeeded way beyond what people thought a single person can do," the president said.

Mr. Bush concluded his two-day, three-state swing yesterday with another call for Americans to volunteer 4,000 hours out of their lifetimes to community service. The administration has begun USA Freedom Corps, which will oversee other public service groups, some already in existence, some yet to be created.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush told 100 seniors and volunteers gathered in Daytona Beach, Fla., the nation needed their wisdom especially retired doctors, teachers, police officers and firefighters.

"There are numerous seniors who have got a lot to offer people who might be retired, but their brains haven't retired, and their experience hasn't been retired. So let's figure out how to get them involved in the community," he said.

Speaking at the Volusia County Fire Services Center, Mr. Bush lauded the county's programs to handle emergencies and said seniors can be among a corps making up the "first defense" against terrorism.

The center is also home to several agencies, including the Citizens on Patrol (COP) program, in which senior citizens patrol neighborhoods looking for suspicious activity. Volunteers have put in nearly 500,000 hours and driven more than 2.5 million miles, officials said. Volusia County also has 70 amateur radio operators to provide communications in the case of widespread power failures.

The 500,000-member Senior Corps, which will fall under the organizational umbrella of Bush's new USA Freedom Corps, offers retirees small stipends in exchange for service as foster grandparents, companions to shut-ins, and mentors to teens and aides in hospitals, day care centers and prisons.

While Daytona Beach has alloted $8.5 million to improve police and firefighter training and to buy new high-tech equipment to handle emergencies, the city is looking for financial help from the federal government.

Mr. Bush, who repeated his assertion that "each of us are responsible for the decisions we make," said jurisdictions will work hard to make improvements.

"We understand at the federal government, since I had been a governor, that sometimes the federal government can help, and sometimes it can get in the way."

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