National Conference Ignites Momentum for Service at Opening Session in New York City

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Jun 28, 2010

MSNBC's Morning Joe Jumpstarts World's Largest Service Conference Today

“The Daily Show's” John Oliver to Headline Evening Celebration, Three Service Leaders Honored

Watch LIVE at VolunteeringandService.org

(NEW YORK CITY) – MSNBC's Morning Joe team Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski kicked off the “It's Up to YOU” opening plenary session of the 2010 National Conference on Volunteering and Service today at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, mobilizing a record attendance of more than 5,000 people at the world's largest gathering of service and volunteer leaders.

The opening session amplified the momentum for citizen service and shaped the new national vision for service as a solution to pressing social problems. Over the course of the next two days, the conference will focus on ways the service movement can better target resources toward pressing social problems and measure impact; expand opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to serve; build the capacity of individuals, nonprofit organizations and communities to address social challenges; and embrace innovation.

“We all share two things in common,” Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, said at the opening session. “We believe service makes a difference and we love a challenge. We have a lot of big challenges ahead of us, whether it is responding to the disaster in the Gulf, addressing our country's high-school dropout crisis or getting Americans back to work… During this conference, let's challenge each other to tackle big problems, make difficult choices and build new partnerships. It's Up to You – It's Up to All of Us.”

Spearheading this call for civic engagement at the opening plenary were leaders from nearly every major sector including Michelle Nunn, CEO, Points of Light Institute and Co-Founder, HandsOn Network; The Hon. Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of New York; Melody Barnes, Director of Domestic Policy Council, The White House; Laysha Ward, President, Target Community Relations and the Target Foundation; Hank Azaria, actor, director and comedian; and Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co., among others. In a video, New York Governor David Paterson discussed his administration's effort to elevate service by appointing a Cabinet-level executive to coordinate the state's volunteer initiatives.

First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed everyone to this year's conference in a video, which can be found at Serve.gov. “Momentum for service is at an all time high,” the First Lady said. “Volunteering is up. Social entrepreneurs are redefining service. Corporations are embracing social responsibility. Technology is giving us new ways to connect… The President and I believe strongly that service is an essential part of solving big national problems. And history has shown us time and again that lasting change comes from ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things, and that's what this movement is all about.”

Convened by the Corporation for National and Community Service and Points of Light Institute, and local conveners NYC Service and New Yorkers Volunteer, and hosted by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the 2010 National Conference will challenge service leaders to increase the impact of their programs, and empower all volunteers to make a real difference through service.

“The message I bring to you today is this,” Melody Barnes told the conference attendees. “Our success as a nation depends now more than ever on you. Your work to transform individual lives and communities is vital to finding new and innovative ways to meet our nation's most pressing challenges. The solutions you are developing in your communities can be used to strengthen, reform, and support our schools; help us bring quality, affordable health care to everyone; build a sustainable energy future; and ensure economic recovery, economic opportunity and economic growth in every community in the country.”

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan echoed this sentiment. “Each of us has an extraordinary opportunity to make our mark on history – to make a difference at a moment in which so many people are depending on us,” he said. “Service can play a crucial role in developing and achieving solutions to some of our most pressing and long-standing challenges. I hope this conference will inspire more Americans to step up and join in. We need you.”

Tonight, “The Daily Show's” John Oliver will host its “Here's to YOU! Inspiration Celebration” at Radio City Music Hall, where the Corporation will present three outstanding volunteers with the “Spirit of Service Award” in front of thousands of service leaders from across the country. The awards are presented annually to individuals from each of the Corporation's three national service programs – AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America – who performed exemplary service in their communities. All Spirit of Service Award recipients were flown to the conference to receive awards by the Corporation's CEO Patrick Corvington. Award recipients, as well as two finalists, will receive an all expense paid Caribbean cruise vacation sponsored by Cabot Cheese, a proud supporter of the Corporation's programs and champion of service as a solution.

The evening event will also feature performances from New York Broadway shows West Side Story, In the Heights, and Million Dollar Quartet, as well as special performances by actress and writer Ruby Dee and Jeff Parness, founder of The New York Says Thank You Foundation accompanied by FDNY firefighters.

You can watch the inspiration celebration live on the conference website at http://www.volunteeringandservice.org.

Media Contact

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

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