Monday, June 22, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama and United We Serve

"It's been said that our true calling in life is where our heart's greatest gladness meets the world's deepest need."
--First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service.

It was pretty darn exciting to be a member of the press for the opening plenary of the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service where First Lady Michelle Obama gave the keynote address today.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to attend and cover the September 11th Presidential Forum on Service during the Service Nation conference in New York City. During the conference, Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Ted Kennedy, represented by his niece, Caroline Kennedy, announced that they were introducing the Serve America Act of 2008.

Nine months later, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act has been signed, and last week President Obama announced the launch of United We Serve--a call for all Americans to serve in their communities starting today, June 22, until September 11th, which will be a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Americans are encouraged to go to to find a service opportunity.
"This, more than anything, is the key point I want to make today," said the First Lady," that this new Obama Administration doesn't view service as separate from our national priorities, or just something in addition to our national priorities--we have an administration that sees it as the key to achieving our national priorities.

We believe that the only way to build that new foundation for our economy is to establish a new role for service in this country."
The First Lady talked about how so often there is, "a sense that service is helpful, but not essential--that it's something folks should do occasionally, particularly around the holidays; something you do to fulfill a requirement, or fulfill yourself. . . . Service is just a little something extra - the icing on the cake, but not part of the cake itself."

The Obama administration wants to make service and volunteering the icing, and the cake for everyone.
"The story of progress in this nation has always been the story of people who chose - in times of trial and struggle - to serve it. . . . Our history is one long testament to the fundamental truth that real change doesn't come from the top down from Washington, it comes from the bottom up - from citizens organizing and mobilizing and serving the nation that they love."
The First Lady also announced that the Entertainment Industry Foundation will be working with ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC to create a "week-long television event in support of national service" the week of October 19, 2009. During that week, the networks will include service-related themes in some of their programming.

I'll be going back to the National Conference on Volunteering and Service tomorrow, and will share more notes from the workshops on Tuesday and/or Wednesday.

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