It's not often that a little do-good blogger like myself gets invited to cover a big 'ole event, but I am! I'm sitting in the press area at the Presidential Forum on Service at Columbia University in New York City. Senators John McCain and Barack Obama will discuss (individually) their ideas about citizen service with Richard Stengel, Manager Editor, Time Magazine, and Judy Woodruff, Senior Correspondent and 2008 Political Editor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. You can watch the Presidential Forum on Service on CNN, or streaming live on the event host's site, Service Nation.
The event is part of the September 11-12 Service Nation Summit, a gathering of 600 leaders from a variety of sectors convening to discuss the role that citizen service and volunteering can play in solving the nation's problems. Tomorrow will include a full day of sessions with a huge array of high profile speakers from Caroline Kennedy to First Lady Laura Bush to Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan. Check out the speaker list.
I'll be blogging from both events. As you can imagine, I'm totally psyched, plus, I'm a total sucker for famous people, especially do-good celebrities. I already grinned giddily at Jeffrey Sachs, author of The End of Poverty and Common Wealth, as if I was seeing a long lost friend. He was kind enough to smile and say hello.
I also sat in on a press conference with Usher, the Summit's Youth Chair, and two participants from Usher's New Look youth program. His work focuses on providing "at-risk" youth with opportunties to be of service. He called them "Generation S," and described them as, "Go-getters and builders" who, "Don't just talk about it, They do it."
I know it's dorky, but I'm totally loving the stream of "Immediate Release" press releases being dropped on our table.
Like that tomorrow Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Orrin Hatch will introduce new legislation, the "Serve America Act," to increase service opportunities for people of all ages, and to put service to work to solve specific national problems. Or that New York's Governor David Paterson is creating a cabinet position to address issues of national and community service.
Sure, I know that some of the things that will be said tonight and tomorrow are political posturing, or words that will never become reality, but I still find it heartening that there is a nationally televised Presidential Forum, and day-long summit with lot of high profile folks, about volunteering and service.
For me, the event is a glimmer of hope in the midst of an increasingly negative presidential campaign. It help me to, as Usher said, "believe in a future that is bright."