Celebrating Fifty Years of Advancing Solutions to End Poverty

February 19, 2015

Congratulations to the AmeriCorps VISTA program, which is celebrating fifty years providing Volunteers in Service to America. Events will be held throughout 2015 to commemorate the anniversary.


In his 1963 State of the Union Address, President John F. Kennedy called for a national service corps to serve community needs. On August 20, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-452), which established the Job Corp Program and fulfilled Kennedy’s vision to provide services in urban and rural poverty areas. On December 12, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson welcomed the first group of volunteers. Today, thousands of volunteers have participated in VISTA and other volunteer programs made possible by this legislation.

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Vista volunteers. Image courtesy of nationalservice.gov

President Lyndon B. Johnson and VISTA volunteers. Image courtesy of nationalservice.gov

The VISTA program has existed in several forms in the past fifty years. Senior service programs established in the 1960s included the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Foster Grandparent Program, and Senior Companion Program. Those programs, the Peace Corps, and the VISTA program were combined in the 1970s into the Action Agency. VISTA existed under the Action Agency until it was combined with the Commission on National and Community Service to create the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) in 1994. VISTA today operates as part of the AmeriCorps programs. The Peace Corps became an independent agency in 1981 and is not a part of CNCS today. A history of these programs is available on the CNCS website. Some Action Agency documents may be available in Federal depository libraries nationwide, such as the ACTION: agency for volunteer service. The May 2006 publication, “VISTA—in service to America,” which provides a forty year overview of the program’s history, is available online. Many photographs showing history and recent activity are also avaiable on the CNCS website.


vista_building_a_communityThere are several reports available online or in Federal depository libraries about the volunteer programs of the Corporation for National and Community Service.


Since the 1964 act to establish the VISTA program, several pieces of legislation have been passed that expanded or impacted these programs. These include Public Law 91-177, signed in 1969 to continue programs authorized under the 1964 act. Public Law 92-424, in 1972, again appropriated funds and conintued the programs of the Economic Opportunity Act. A major act to affect the volunteer service corp was that National and Community Service Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-610). This legislation created the Commission on National and Community Service, which supported programs for school age youth, higher education service programs, Youth Corps, and other service models. The National Civilian Community Corps was created as part of the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. This legislation also created the Corporation for National and Community Service, which combined the Action Agency and the Commission on National and Community Service.

vista_volunteerPresident George W. Bush created the USA Freedom Corps by Executive Order 13254. This created a council to work across executive agencies to foster a culture of service by increasing public service opportunities. The most recent legislation was the 2009 Serve America Act (Public Law 111-13). This act, signed by President Barack Obama, reathorized and expanded national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Over the years, AmeriCorp and volunteers in these national programs have been recognized in official Congressional material for the achievements of the volunteers. For example, House Resolution 453 was recored in the Congressional Record on June 9, 2009.

50th Anniversary Celebration

AmeriCorp VISTA is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary kicking off in 2015 with a National Solutions Summit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC on February 25th. The event may be attended in person, or some portions will be available for streaming online. In addition, Community Summit Spotlights will be held across the U.S. from April to December. Check out the celebration Web site for information about the events and how you can get involved.

National Service Timeline.  Image courtesy of nationalservice.org

National Service Timeline. Image courtesy of nationalservice.org

The thousands of members of the VISTA community are using social media to connect and share their experiences. Check out the #VISTA50 tag on Instagram and Twitter, and follow @VISTAbuzz. You can also follow the official blog of the Corporation for National and Community Service to keep up with news and events and opportunities to serve.

The Program Today

Today, the Federal Agency Corporation for National & Community Serivce continues to facilitate service to build community and combat poverty across the U.S. Established in 1993, the CNCS is active in every state and works collaboratively with national, state, and local entities. AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers continue to commit to the mission to bring individuals and communities out of poverty. Check out this interactive map to see what projects are going on near you. For example, since 1994, over 5,100 District of Columbia residents have served more than 7.3 million hours of community service. Many reports on projects and statistics on service are available for every state. You can also check out the agency Web site for more information if you are ready to serve.

Are you interested in volunteer services in America? The U.S. Government Bookstore offers a variety of publications that relate to this topic.

How can I get publications about Volunteer Services in America?

About the author: Cathy Wagner is an Outreach Librarian with the Outreach & Support team in the Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) unit at the Government Publishing Office.

Designing a Nation: Civic Art in the Nation’s Capital

April 17, 2014

The U.S. Capitol and National Mall are a beautiful representation of the dignity and public spirit of the United States of America. This area is steeped in history, and you can learn more about the past and continued efforts to design, build, and preserve the U.S. Capitol and National Mall through many government publications.

Brumidi-To-Make-Beautiful-the-CapitolWith its famous dome celebrating its 150th anniversary in December 2013, the United States Capitol is a treasure-trove of civic art. Just released, To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi gives a detailed history of renowned Italian-born artist Constantino Brumidi’s masterful work in “making beautiful” the walls and ceilings of the United States Capitol in a span of 25 years starting in 1854. Every page delights with gorgeous, full-color photographs and images of Brumidi’s art, from photographs of the frescoes and decoration, to sketches, paintings and images of the artist, particularly the Brumidi Corridors and his “monumental fresco” in the Capitol Rotunda, called The Apotheosis of Washington. Fascinating anecdotes are included throughout of the artist and the inspirations he received for various elements, his relationship with engineer Montgomery C. Meigs, and the conservation efforts to preserve his work accurately for posterity. Read more about this publication and others about art in the Capitol in our prior blog post, National Treasure: The art and architecture of the US Capitol.

The primary oversight board for projects in the National Mall area is the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which was established by an act of Congress on May 17, 1910 in Public Law 61-181. This commission was created as an independent review agency for the work of designing the national capitol and to guide the architectural development of Washington. The commission’s role was expanded with later passage of the Shipstead-Luce Act of 1930 (Public Law 71-231 and Public Law 76-248), and the Old Georgetown Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-808). The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts has a long history of guiding the development of the nation’s capital. Several resources are available in print and online to learn more about the commission’s history.

The National Park Service maintains a detailed guide linking to documents and reports that detail the area history. The Mall Cultural Landscape Inventory, part 2 contains several pages describing the history of the Senate Park Commission and its formation into the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

Designing-the-nations-capitalThe U.S. Commission of Fine Arts published a monograph in 2006; Designing the nation’s capital: the 1901 plan for Washington D.C. This 359 page monograph contains illustrations in color and black and white, as well as maps. The National Park Service provides full text access to this title online.

In addition to this title, several editions of this history of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts from 1910 to date were published in 1964, 1977, 1981, 1985, 1991, and 1996.

Civic Art : a centennial history of the U.S. Commission of Fine ArtsThe most recent addition to the volumes available about the history of the commission is celebrates 100 years of the work of the commission. Civic Art : a centennial history of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts is a beautiful, 626 page monograph with illustrations, maps and plans. It is a comprehensive history of the agency and includes original essays by prominent architects and landscape architects including Arleyn Levee, Carroll William Westfall, and Richard Guy Wilson.

A Botanic Garden for the Nation: The United States Botanic GardenAnother beautiful book that features some of the history of the national mall area is A Botanic Garden for the Nation: The United States Botanic Garden. You can read more about this publication in a previous post on Government Book Talk.

For more information about the U.S. Capital building, you can also check out the publications highlighted in the previous Government Book Talk post on the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Capital Dome.

America’s Castle: the evolution of the Smithsonian Building and its institution, 1840-1878To read more about the history of the Smithsonian, you could visit a depository library and check out the publication, America’s Castle: the evolution of the Smithsonian Building and its institution, 1840-1878.

If you are interested in the official records of the commission, you can locate them at the National Archives. The record collection includes administrative history, annual reports, and a selection of still photographs. The records are divided between College Park, MD and Washington DC. Many of the records pertaining to the building and continued development of the National Mall are available at the National Archives, such as the National Park Service Records for the National Capital Region, and the Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital.

How Can I get this book and other publications about history of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts?

About the author: Our guest blogger is Cathy Wagner, a GPO Outreach Librarian for the U.S. Government Printing Office’s Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) Division. Additional content, images and editing provided by Trudy Hawkins, a writer and marketing specialist in GPO’s Publication & Information Sales Division supporting the U.S. Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov).

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