"All Americans should serve our country," the Connecticut senator said in remarks prepared for delivery Saturday. "Endowed as we are with so many gifts, is it too much to ask that we each give something back to this remarkable place?"
He proposes making community service mandatory for all high school students, doubling the size of the Peace Corps by 2011 and expanding the AmeriCorps national service program to 1 million participants by the end of his presidency.
Requiring high school students to perform community service will give them a chance to acquire new skills while meeting the needs of their communities, Dodd said.
"If the chat rooms and online communities of today show us anything, it is that young people yearn for shared experiences," he said. "All they are missing is leadership from us to redirect that interest toward community service."
Dodd would encourage service by adults by offering tax credits to employers who give workers paid time off to volunteer and $1,000 grants for seniors who help out in schools. The money could be used for their own continuing education or that of a child or grandchild.
Dodd also would create a Rapid Response Reserve Corps made up of retired military people and service corps alumni to work alongside firefighters, police and other first responders. Altogether, the plan would cost about $10 billion over eight years.
"As president, I will ask all Americans to share in the responsibility of bringing our nation together again, and I will provide the ways for all Americans to participate," Dodd said. "Never again will this country have to wait for a national crisis to bring us together with national purpose," he said.
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has promoted community service through his One Corps program, which brings together his supporters in each state to work on service projects. Sen. Barack Obama has proposed a "5-E Youth Service Corps" to get disadvantaged young people involved in service projects that focus on energy efficiency and the environment.
By Holly Ramer, Associated Press