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It's Up to YOU!

by Melody Barnes

Ed. Note: This blog is cross-posted from the White House blog. 

This week New York City hosted the 2010 National Conference on Volunteering and Service: It’s Up to YOU! Over 5,000 service leaders convened to discuss how to create greater impact and effectiveness in meeting social needs through service and volunteering. The National Conference on Volunteering and Service is the world’s largest gathering of service and civic engagement leaders. This conference is hosted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, our federal agency home for service, and the Points of Light Institute.

I was pleased to deliver the opening remarks to frame the President’s and First Lady's vision and commitment to service as well as to meet with a broad cross-section of service leaders from the nonprofit, public, private, and philanthropic sectors.

As you well know, our nation faces a daunting set of challenges. But, from day one, the President has acted on the principle that “service is a solution” – that service is a critical tool as we address our national priorities.

That’s why one of the President’s top priorities in his first 100 days was to sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. We worked with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress and with service and community leaders across the country to give the American people more opportunities to serve.

After all, the President and First Lady have always believed that the best ideas don’t come from Washington. They come from individuals and communities all across the country. From coast to coast, our neighbors are finding new and innovative ways to meet our country’s most pressing challenges. These community-led solutions are strengthening, reforming and supporting our schools; helping us bring quality, affordable health care to everyone; building a sustainable energy future; and ensuring economic recovery, economic opportunity and economic growth in every community in the country.

To support community solutions, the President tasked me with creating the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation as part of the Domestic Policy Council in the White House – to find the best ways to invest in and scale programs that work and find ways to help communities better solve their own problems. We know that we need to get the policies right, but we also know that Americans everywhere are already working to make a difference – and they deserve our support.

We have to come together – the public, private, nonprofit, academic, and philanthropic communities. We need to share best practices, share new ideas, and invest in what works. And we need to support a new generation of leaders who can build on the great progress we have made together.

To get involved in your own local community, please go to Serve.gov to find opportunities to volunteer. And to hear more about the discussions that took place at the National Conference please visit the conference’s website.

Melody Barnes is the Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

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