National Service Board Chair Highlights Service at Texas Forum
College Station, Texas – Calling service an integral part of how we meet the challenges of our time, President Barack Obama renewed his appeal for all Americans to make service a part of their daily lives in an address to 2,000 service leaders gathered at the Points of Light Institute's (POL) “Presidential Forum on Service” at Texas A& M University here today.
President Obama saluted former President George H.W. Bush, whose foundation hosted today's forum, for his lifelong dedication to service both inside and outside of government and for his leadership in launching the Points of Light movement twenty years ago.
The President spoke passionately about the key role citizens play in meeting local needs, advancing justice, bringing people together, and breathing life into our democracy. While government has a key role to play, it doesn't have all the solutions, and citizens need to do their part, the President said.
“And this is the point I want to emphasize today: that service isn't separate from our national priorities, or secondary to our national priorities – it is integral to achieving our national priorities. It is how we will meet the challenges of our time,” said President Obama.
The President highlighted how service is an essential strategy for solving problems and not just something “nice” by pointing to everyday Americans who throughout our history have “stepped forward in our darkest hour to serve,” from the patriots who set forth our founding ideals and soldiers who fought for them to the heroes who rushed in after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
He said the same qualities of compassion and courage are needed to address today's challenges, and renewed the call to service he sounded at his Inauguration and reiterated frequently during his Presidency. “I am asking you to have a public service mindset. I'm asking that no matter where you live, or what job you do, or what obstacles you face, you're always looking for ways to make service part of your life.”
In the speech, the President introduced Patrick Corvington, his nominee to be the next CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is leading the Administration's effort to engage more Americans in service to help address national and local problems.
He also expressed his pride in signing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, the most sweeping expansion of national service in generations, which reauthorizes the Corporation, expands its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and creates new initiatives to increase service opportunities and strengthen our civic infrastructure.
Earlier in the day, the Corporation's Interim Board Chair Stephen Goldsmith participated in a Service Leaders Roundtable that focused on the bipartisan evolution of national and community service over the course of the past 20 years and ideas for where the movement needs to go in the next 20 years. The Corporation's Acting CEO Nicola Goren also attended the forum, along with representatives of the Texas OneStar Foundation and national service programs in Texas.
The President also remarked on the strong response to United We Serve, a nationwide initiative led by the Corporation to create a sustained, collaborative, and focused effort to meet community needs and make service a way of life for all Americans. Since its launch in June, Americans have responded enthusiastically to the President's call to service by replenishing food banks, preventing summer reading loss, supporting veterans and military families, and meeting other needs. The online home to United We Serve, Serve.gov, links to a searchable database of more than 250,000 volunteer opportunities and his tools for Americans to organize their own projects to meet local needs.
The forum commemorated President Bush's inauguration speech in 1989, in which he invoked "A Thousand Points of Light" to encourage individuals to solve problems and improve their communities through volunteering and service. It also celebrated the enormous advances of the service movement under Presidents George H.W. Bush, William Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, and the contributions of more than 4,500 Daily Point of Light Award winners.
The Corporation has worked closely with the Points of Light Institute and its predecessor to strengthen the capacity of America's volunteer sector. The Corporation is funding a three-year cooperative agreement to help the Points of Light Institute build the capacity of volunteer connector organizations, co-convenes the annual National Conference on Volunteering and Service with the Institute, and works with the Institute to provide training and technical assistance to service organizations.