First Lady Michelle Obama Issues Call to Service to Nation’s Volunteer Leaders

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Jun 23, 2009

Entertainers, Political Leaders “Pump Up” National Conference on Volunteering and Service

 

San Francisco, CA – Speaking to a record-breaking 5,000 attendees, First Lady Michelle Obama called on all Americans to participate in our nation's renewal and recovery in a keynote address at the opening session of the National Conference on Volunteering and Service at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA.

“This, more than anything, is the key point I want to make today – that this new Administration doesn't view service as separate from our national priorities, or in addition to our national priorities – we see 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,” she said.

The First Lady announced the launch of United We Serve, a sustained effort to expand the size and impact of volunteer efforts in America. The initial phase of United We Serve runs for 81 days through a new National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11. More than a dozen members of President Obama's Cabinet participated in the kick-off by fanning out across the country to join in service projects.

In her remarks, Mrs. Obama announced an initiative of the Entertainment Industry Foundation that will carry the service message to millions of Americans. During the week of October 19, plots and themes of dozens of popular network television programs will center on volunteering to inspire Americans to serve.

“The idea is to emphasize for viewers across the country that service is a part of who we are as Americans – and to highlight the power of service to make a difference in people's lives,” Mrs. Obama said.

The opening plenary featured a star-studded lineup of elected officials and popular culture figures including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California First Lady Maria Shriver, Matthew McConaughey and an inspirational performance from Jon Bon Jovi, who stated that, “We're going to be the ones that make volunteerism hip. Together, and with the power of ‘WE', we can start a revolution one soul at a time.”

Pelosi highlighted the new service opportunities created by Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. “In these great times of great challenge, America needs more people like all of you- rolling up your sleeves and pitching in to turn challenges in your communities into opportunities to serve. I come here today to thank you, and I come here proud of what Congress has done in a bipartisan way to help provide those opportunities.”

Schwarzenegger, first Governor in the nation to appoint a cabinet-level position on service and volunteering, told the sold-out crowd he was on hand to “Pump you up!” for service.

“Service and volunteerism is important to me; they are important to my family and to the great State of California,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “I am here to pump up your spirit because I believe in you and the amazing work that all of you do. And I believe that we are on the verge of a breakthrough in service all across this country, maybe even a revolution.”

Bon Jovi, who founded the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation, addressed the conference and played a short musical set to celebrate the year-round work of volunteers. McConaughey discussed the work of his charitable organization, j.klivin foundation, to bring after-school fitness and wellness programs to underserved communities and introduced a video about the Entertainment Industry Foundation initiative to inspire Americans to answer the call of service.

Inspiring Others To Serve

Monday morning, nearly 300 attendees boarded buses at 7 a.m. to travel to Bret Harte Elementary School, where they were joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and California's First Lady Maria Shriver to rebuild the school's playground. The recreation area is the first fully intergenerational volunteer-built playground in the nation, providing a space for people of all ages to come together and play. The service project, sponsored by CaliforniaVolunteers, was Shriver's 31st playground build in the state and honored the life and legacy of Cesar E. Chavez. Governor Schwarzenegger, in his address at the Moscone Center, noted that “the Obama's continue to prove that no family is too busy to serve.”

Neil Bush, Chairman of the Board for Points of Light Institute, continued the momentum of civic engagement when he announced the HandsOn Network “Get HandsOn Campaign,” a strategic response to the President's call to service and United We Serve initiative. Through the campaign, HandsOn Network aims to recruit and mobilize a core of 50,000 volunteer leaders and engage people of all generations in two million impact-driven projects. The goals of the campaign are to reduce the drop-out rate by leveraging the power of service in every school, reduce the carbon footprint though neighborhood-based conservation and restoration projects; and support economic security for families by facilitating access to resources and dollars.

“We know that many folks are eager to give back. We've seen it,” continued First Lady Obama. “They are eager to be part of this nation's recovery and renewal…As hard examples, applications to AmeriCorps have quadrupled. In the Peace Corps last year, there were three applications for every available position. 35,000 young people applied for just 4,000 spots in Teach for America…People across this country are ready to answer the call to serve. We just need to issue that call and provide them with the opportunities that are meaningful.”

This year's conference program boasts over 170 workshops, forums and Immersion Learning sessions led by more than 35 notable speakers from the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors. A full list of speakers and their biographies can be found at http://www.volunteeringandservice.org/learn/speakers.cfm. Highlights for the balance of the conference can be found at http://www.volunteeringandservice.org.

Media Contact

Samantha Jo Warfield
(202) 606-6775
sjwarfield@cns.gov

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