First AmeriCorps alum in the Senate addresses AmeriCorps: 30 Years Forward Summit at the Clinton Presidential Center
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) provided a video testimonial at AmeriCorps: 30 Years Forward, a summit hosted at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark. to commemorate the 30th anniversary of AmeriCorps and discuss the future of national service. Heinrich is the Vice Chair of the National Service Congressional Caucus and the first AmeriCorps alum to serve in the United States Senate.
Thirty years ago, President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Trust Act of 1993, which established the Corporation for National and Community Service and created AmeriCorps — a public/private partnership designed to mobilize and develop Americans from all walks of life to serve as leaders.
During his video testimonial, Heinrich described his personal experience working as an AmeriCorps member in New Mexico assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with Mexican gray wolf recovery. He also discussed the need to grow support for national service opportunities including through President Biden’s recently launched American Climate Corps.
“I would like to personally thank President Clinton for the opportunity he provided me and so many Americans 30 years ago. And I am honored to join all of you in celebrating AmeriCorps’ success over the last three decades,” said Heinrich. “Nothing is more rewarding than serving others. I hope we will build on these last 30 years by empowering the next generation of Americans to serve.”
Below are Heinrich’s full remarks:
I grew up exploring the woods and creeks around my family’s home in rural Missouri. My mom was not always thrilled with the king snakes, tarantulas, and snapping turtles that I brought home. But she encouraged what would become a career dedicated to protecting America’s wildlife and wild places.
When I first moved to New Mexico after college, I was drawn to our state’s vast and wild outdoor places. After starting my career in Albuquerque doing defense research, I felt called to pursue a different path of service.
AmeriCorps was still relatively new at that point. I was intrigued by an AmeriCorps position working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Mexican gray wolf recovery. Wildlife biologists were preparing to reintroduce these wolves back into their native ecosystems in the Southwest. But before they could move forward, they needed data to prove that there weren’t any lobos still roaming wild.
My AmeriCorps colleagues and I went out into the backcountry for ten days at a time, surveying huge areas of New Mexico and Arizona. We would stop every mile or so and then howl into the darkness in each cardinal direction. Despite all of our best wolf calls—and a few awful ones—no wolves ever responded. We did hear coyotes, foxes, screech owls, elf owls, and even the threatened Mexican Spotted Owl. But no wolves.
The data that we gathered helped to defend the reintroduction that has led to well over 300 endangered lobos calling New Mexico and Arizona home.
I hold onto my experience as an AmeriCorps member to this day. And I am proud to be the first—but certainly not the last—AmeriCorps alum to serve in the United States Senate.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of meeting many AmeriCorps members working on a wide range of meaningful projects. As the Vice Chair of the National Service Congressional Caucus, I am working to grow our support for their national service opportunities.
That includes expanding our support for our existing Corps network. National service is a critical and cost-effective approach to taking on challenges. We should recognize how much AmeriCorps members are contributing to communities all across our country.
We should also build on the last 30 years with initiatives like President Biden’s American Climate Corps. This initiative will provide whole new generation of Americans with opportunities much like the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps.
There is so much work to do to solve climate change and build our clean energy future. Young Americans are eager to be the heroes in this story. They can restore our lands and waters, install and maintain clean energy infrastructure, and build healthier and more resilient communities. We need to invest in providing them the training and opportunities they need to pursue emerging career fields at the center of building climate solutions.
I would like to personally thank President Clinton for the opportunity he provided me and so many Americans 30 years ago. And I am honored to join all of you in celebrating AmeriCorps’ success over the last three decades.
Nothing is more rewarding than serving others.
I hope we will build on these last 30 years by empowering the next generation of Americans to serve.