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President Barack Obama, who got his political start as a community organizer, signed legislation Tuesday to more than triple the number of government-backed volunteers across the country at a cost of billions of dollars.

At a bill-signing ceremony at a public boarding school for disadvantaged youth before he headed off to a tree-planting project, Obama asked people to "stand up and play your part."

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who drafted the bill and served as the primary Republican sponsor, said: "Our country has a longstanding tradition of helping our neighbors, and I am honored to have been a part of such a monumental piece of legislation that will continue this valued tradition."

During the congressional debate, Hatch said he drew inspiration for the legislation from his two year mission for the LDS Church, which he served in the Great Lakes states. He said he wouldn't trade his two-year mission for all of the years he has served in the Senate.

Obama called Hatch "a class act" for leading the charge to rename the legislation the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

Tribune and wire

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