The First Lady marked the kick off of United We Serve yesterday, where she joined California's First Lady Maria Shriver to build a playground at Bret Harte Elementary, a public school in San Francisco. The First Lady worked with KaBOOM!, an organization that aims to create safe and fun places for kids to play within walking distance of their homes. They have been building playgrounds in underserved communities for 14 years, relying on volunteers across the country.
(First Lady Michelle Obama promotes the White House's United We Serve volunteering initiative at the Bret Harte Elementary School in San Francisco, California with Maria Shriver, First Lady of California, June 22, 2009 Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
As we mentioned previously, United We Serve is a call to action for all Americans to volunteer in their communities this summer. It will be led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, and will focus on the four core elements of our recovery agenda: health care, energy independence, education and community and economic renewal. This particular project focused on health and community renewal.
The First Lady discussed how building a playground goes beyond simply giving children a place to play -- it's about keeping our children healthy. Our children are not getting enough exercise, which has both serious immediate and long-term consequences. It is essential that we get our kids active and moving, but unfortunately, many kids do not have access to safe outside play. The First Lady explained this is why organizations like KaBOOM! and the volunteers that help build playgrounds are crucial not just to our kids, but to our nation:
So I want people, as they think about how they're going to spend this summer, in addition to making your kids play, think about engaging in United We Serve. And think about ways that you can take more time to devote to activities and projects that are going to get our kids healthy and moving, whether it's serving a healthy meal at a soup kitchen, building a play lot, finding a project in your area that's going to focus on the health of our kids, taking time to tutor, mentor, taking a kid to the beach. I know in Chicago there are kids all over my city at home who have never seen the lake. I know that this is true for many communities across the city. Kids don't even know where they can play or what they can play. That's where we all come in. That's where we need your help. And today is just the beginning.
Community service projects can make a huge impact on our communities, which is why the First Lady stressed that everyone should make service a part of their daily life:
And as we think about what we're trying to do through United We Serve, I just think -- imagine the changes that happen with the creation of this park. Kids who were never able to play on a swing set get the opportunity to play. And that just doesn't happen here on this site. Think about the libraries that will be changed because each of us donates a book or two. Or think about the smiles that are on some homeless person's face because you took the time to spend a couple of hours to feed somebody a healthy meal. That's what United We Serve is all about. It's a nationwide effort to call Americans to make service a daily part of their lives -- like all of you here; it's not something that you do in your spare time.
After building the playground, the First Lady gave the keynote address at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service, which brought together thousands of volunteers and service leaders from across the country. In her remarks, the First Lady explained that for too long we have viewed service as separate from the government's policies -- that service is a nice bonus, but not an essential component to getting work done. But change comes from the bottom up, and the time is now to make service a central pillar in the foundation of our country.
Serve.gov makes it easy for everyone to get involved by providing everything you need to get projects started: connecting you to service opportunities and to others who are interested in the same service area, and providing tools to track the impact you are having on your community.Visit Serve.gov to find a volunteer opportunity today, and get involved in building America's new foundation.