(San Francisco) – First Lady Michelle Obama and Cabinet secretaries are fanning out across the country today to participate in community service projects as part of the launch of United We Serve, a national call to service by President Obama.
Mrs. Obama will kick off United We Serve by joining California First Lady Maria Shriver and volunteers in helping build a public playground at an elementary school in San Francisco. Later in the day, she will make a call to action to more than 4,500 nonprofit, volunteer, and service leaders at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service.
United We Serve is an extended call to service challenging all Americans to help lay a new foundation for growth by engaging in sustained, meaningful community service. The Corporation for National and Community Service is leading the initiative, which kicks off today and runs for 81 days through a new National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11.
In a video message released today, Mrs. Obama stressed the importance of service in her own life and urged Americans to go to Serve.gov to find local volunteer opportunities. "This summer, the President and I are asking you to make time and do your part…Wherever your interests lie - whether it's working with young people or caring for the sick and elderly in our hospitals, or helping to make the homes in your neighborhood more energy efficient - or any other issue, the most important thing is for you to get involved."
More than a dozen Cabinet members are participating in projects and reinforcing the President's call to service. HUD Secretary Donovan will join AmeriCorps members in rebuilding a New Orleans home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Interior Secretary Salazar will help remove exotic plants from Shenandoah National Park. Commerce Secretary Locke will read to homeless children and feed them lunch at a homeless shelter in Mesa Arizona. In Los Angeles, Labor Secretary Solis will help construct energy-efficient housing for low-income individuals. (For a full list, click here)
The high level of involvement by members of the President's cabinet underscores the importance the Administration places on engaging Americans in service to tackle tough national challenges. In his Inaugural Address, the President called for a "new era of responsibility," and his policy agenda calls for increasing investments in national service, social innovation, and other efforts that engage citizens in solving local problems. The President renewed his Inaugural call to service in a United We Serve video message released on June 16.
"The President and Mrs. Obama both know first-hand the power of service to transform lives and communities," said Corporation Board Chair Alan Solomont. "Through United We Serve, they are asking all Americans to join in our country's economic and social renewal."
The Corporation is working with hundreds of national and local organizations to encourage participation in the effort and launched the Serve.gov website to make it easy for Americans to get involved. Visitors to Serve.gov can type in their zip code to find local volunteer opportunities, recruit volunteers by posting their organization's projects, or get ideas for creating their own projects with friends, families, and neighbors.
The initiative will get a big boost today from a number of high-profile leaders who are speaking at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California First Lady Maria Shriver, and Jon Bon Jovi and Matthew McConaughey, who are representing the Entertainment Industry Foundation.
The conference will also feature several major announcements of new plans to support the United We Serve initiative. The Entertainment Industry Foundation will share plans for a new multi-year campaign to make service a national priority. Starting on October 19, the broadcast networks will use America's favorite TV shows and personalities to shine a spotlight on the power of service. Sterling Speirn, the President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will announce that the foundation will give $1.6 million to support activities related to United We Serve. Levi Strauss and Company, Symantec, Motorola Foundation, and eBay have also provided support for the Corporation's leadership of the United We Serve initiative.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. Each year, the Corporation engages four million Americans of all ages and backgrounds through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs. For more information, visit www.NationalService.gov.