This has been a great month for service.
Last Monday, you made history by helping organize the largest King Day of Service ever, as Americans across the nation came out in record numbers to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through service to others.
Last Tuesday, in an Inaugural Address viewed across the nation and around the world, President Obama saluted the American spirit of service and called for a new era of responsibility – “a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.”
The historic volunteer response on King Day and President Obama’s bold call to service underscore the importance of our work and the magnitude of this moment. This is an unprecedented time of need and opportunity for national service – need driven by an economic crisis that is causing stress and dislocation to millions of Americans – and opportunity born out of a growing desire by Americans to serve and an emerging consensus that service is a solution to many of our toughest challenges.
If the 2009 King Day of Service is any guide, then we should feel very hopeful about the potential to seize this moment. In total, more than 13,000 projects took place, more than doubling last year’s record of 5,000 projects. This turnout was the largest in the 14 years since Congress encouraged Americans to observe the King Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation with leading this national effort.
Here in Washington DC, President-elect Obama served with AmeriCorps members, Senior Corps volunteers and Learn and Serve America students at a local high school; Vice President-elect Biden worked with Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps members; and Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden joined Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Congress, Governors, and thousands of volunteers to make 85,000 care packages for our troops.
While the President-elect’s call to service was key to fueling the record turnout, much of the success was due to hard work and advance planning by our staff, grantees, and partners. On behalf of our Board, I want to extend our heartfelt thanks to our lead partner the King Center, to our seven national King Day of Service grantees (the Points of Light Institute, The Corps Network, North Carolina Campus Compact, Youth Service America, Service for Peace, Campus Kitchens, and the National Alliance of Faith and Justice), to the thousands of other national service grantees, nonprofits, and corporate groups that organized projects, and to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who came out to honor this great hero by taking action in their communities.
While the 2009 King Day of Service will go into the history books, our work has just begun. Fulfilling Dr. King’s dream and making America “what it ought to be” will take a large-scale, long-term commitment. Our goal for King Day has always been for it to serve as a springboard for year-round service, and that goal is especially important in the current economy.
We will be sharing highlights of the unprecedented media coverage of King Day later this week. I encourage you to learn more about the success of King Day by reading our preliminary report, viewing the 400-plus photos on Flickr, watching our King Day videos, and joining our new 50,000 strong Facebook Cause.
Corporation for National and Community Service