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Celebrate the Drum Majors for Service in Your Community

by John Kelly

This post originally appeared on the White House blog on December 12, 2011.

On the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service this January, President Obama will recognize unsung heroes around the country who have answered the call to service. Inspired by Dr. King's historic speech on the Drum Major Instinct, the MLK Drum Majors for Service program—facilitated by the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service—welcomes the nomination of people in organizations and businesses who are serving their communities, often without recognition.

This program is very simple and an exciting way for you to honor individuals within your organization – whether a business, congregation, nonprofit or community group – who are doing great work serving others, often without recognition. Here's how it works: identify “Drum Majors for Service” who are making a difference in your organization.Then, visit our website and order them a Drum Major award, pin, and letter from the President (paying a nominal fee for printing and shipping).

Finally, honor them with the Drum Major for Service award on Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday (January 16th), or other days throughout the year. Remember to tell us about your award recipients by emailing stories and pictures to MLKDay@cns.gov. We look forward to hearing about all the amazing work going on across the country that live out each and every day Dr. King's vision of service.

Recently, President Obama helped to dedicate the new memorial on the National Mall honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King urged all of us to live our lives in a just, moral, loving and generous fashion. He asked us to harness human nature for good. In this season of giving, it is Dr. King's admonition of being “first in generosity” that I want to highlight.

In Los Angeles, CA, Wallace Ussery, who has a lifelong history of service to his church and the community at-large, has been first in generosity. Now in his 70s, Mr. Ussery continues to give generously of his time and talent. One of his most notable activities has been the mentoring and care of a young homeless man.

Providing shelter and clothes and assisting him with finding and receiving medical care and social services, Mr. Ussery has made a tremendous impact on this young man's life. Many other young men in the community tell stories of how Mr. Ussery has assisted them in times of need. Consistently providing support for those who are less fortunate than himself, Mr. Ussery is a constant inspiration to those around him, and he's certainly a “Drum Major for Service.”

Most of us don't have to look far for the same sorts of people in our own communities. Just like Mr. Ussery, they see a need and go about quietly meeting it. They are the glue that holds the after-school program together, or creates the system for getting elderly citizens to appointments, or mows the lawn of the deployed soldier or countless other acts of service that make your community stronger.

In this season of giving - and giving thanks, I hope you will take a moment to notice those outstanding people and plan to say a special thank you to the important individuals who are the drum majors in your community. Honor your community's special “drum majors for service” with a President's Volunteer Service Award and present it in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday and national day of service.

In this time of great economic challenges, the President has called for all Americans to come together and contribute to addressing pressing needs. There are many volunteers – unsung heroes – who are answering that call and expanding economic opportunity in their community every day. Recognize your community's “drum majors for service” on this upcoming MLK Day of Service, and members of your community will be inspired by the example they set and motivated to take action.

To learn more about and order the Drum Major for Service award click here, and then let us know about the Drum Majors in your community. Email us at mlkday@cns.gov.

John Kelly is Senior Policy Advisor of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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