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Last week, we gathered fourteen inspirational citizens to hear about their tireless efforts to renew and strengthen their communities through service and innovation. We met in New Orleans, the host city for the 2011 National Conference on Volunteering and Service, an annual convening of over 4,000 people working to make a difference in the lives of others.

There was a time when Sydney Jimason's prospects didn't look bright. She was kicked out of high school, unemployed, and spending time on the streets of DC. But that all changed when she learned about the Latin American Youth Corps YouthBuild program.

Watch a video from the Independence Day celebration at the White House. The President and First Lady joined more than 1,200 military heroes and their families for a barbeque, a special USO show featuring Train and Amos Lee, and a viewing of the fireworks over the National Mall.

Operation Honor Card has successfully collected 14,000,000 pledged hours of service from Americans who want to honor military families and veterans through acts of kindness, big and small, showing appreciation for their sacrifice.

President Obama today celebrated the remarkable achievements of student science fair winners and extraordinary kid innovators from across the nation in the third White House Science Fair. The Fair brought 100 students from more than 40 states to an all-day, hands-on celebration of the power and potential of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

Today, to celebrate AmeriCorps Week, I served with a group of volunteers – including five enthusiastic AmeriCorps members – at a Habitat for Humanity build site in Washington, DC.

National service is one of America's most hallowed traditions. As Alexis De Tocqueville noted in 1835, we are a nation of joiners. Ours is a country where people take collective action for the good of all.

We would all like to believe we control our own destiny. But experiences teach us we are sometimes shaped by forces outside ourselves: the opportunities we encounter, the people we meet, those who mentor us, and the communities that surround us. This is not to say that our paths are prescribed—but that we need the skills to recognize and seize opportunities that come our way.

The mood was merry when Dr. Jill Biden hosted a fourth-grade class from White Oaks Elementary School in Burke, Virginia at the Vice President's Residence on Monday, Dec. 12. The festive event focused on helping children understand the challenges faced by military families during the holiday season.

Madison Street Veterans Association began about three years ago with a group of homeless veterans living in an emergency shelter in Phoenix. The veterans decided that they should band together to improve the conditions in the shelter for themselves and any veterans who showed up in the shelter. What a difference they made!

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