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By Valerie Jarrett, Neil Bush, and Michelle Nunn  

The first immigrants to America came seeking freedom, but they survived -- and, in time, came to thrive -- because of their determination and because of each other. They valued self-reliance, but in times of strife they also knew could rely on neighbors, friends, sometimes even strangers to offer a helping hand.

That neighbor-helping-neighbor spirit is woven into the DNA of the American spirit. It defines in a very real sense who we are as a people.

It also unites us.

 

That unity was on vivid display this Monday when President Obama welcomed the man who launched the modern service movement, President George H. W. Bush, back to the White House to honor the recipients of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light award. Together, they lauded Kathy Hamilton and Floyd Hammer of Union, Iowa, for stepping up to fight hunger and improve the lives of children worldwide.

Nearly 10 years ago, Hamilton and Hammer participated in a volunteer mission to Tanzania to help renovate an HIV/AIDS hospital there. Startled by the starvation they saw, the couple started Outreach, Inc., which has engaged thousands of volunteers in packaging and distributing 230 million free meals to children in more than 15 countries, including the United States.

Their story is a simple one: Two people decided that they simply had to do something. Telling that story, day in and day out, is what the Daily Point of Light Award is all about.

President Bush was the first president in U.S. history to institute a daily presidential recognition program from the White House, conferring 1,020 Daily Point of Light Awards between 1990 and 1993. And President Bush helped launch a nonprofit – Points of Light – that has become the largest organization in the world dedicated to volunteer service.

While he didn't originate the notion of helping our fellow man, he reasserted it as a national priority and insisted that "there can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others."

President Obama built on this commitment to service when he signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009, which will increase the size of AmeriCorps from 75,000 volunteers to 250,000 by 2017. In 2012, the President created the FEMA Corps program, which established a FEMA-dedicated unit of AmeriCorps members to work solely on disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts -- and he launched the Serve.gov platform to make it easier for Americans to find and post local volunteer opportunities. 

On Monday, the White House also announced plans to establish an interagency task force led by the Corporation for National and Community Service to develop strategies to expand national service to meet national needs through collaboration with other Federal agencies.

This historic event, then, brought together two Presidents and families united in their commitment to expand volunteerism and service – an issue with a long history of strong bipartisan support. While other critical issues can be attended by sharper debate, that bipartisan support for service is durable and enduring.

Today, America faces both challenges and opportunities in forming "a more perfect Union," but that same spirit of selflessness which has sustained us from our earliest days is as strong as ever.

As Kathy Hamilton and Floyd Hammer show in such a wonderful and compassionate way, you don't have to be a President to be a leader -- and you don't have to be a First Lady to make a difference in the life of your fellowman. All you have to do is open your heart to the need around you, and then do something about it.

Get started by:

  • Tweeting about a point of light in your life, using the hashtag #mypointoflight.
  • Finding an opportunity to volunteer in your community at www.serve.gov.
  • Nominating someone you know for a Daily Point of Light Award at www.pointsoflight.org/dailypointoflight

This post originally appeared on the White House Blog. Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement. Neil Bush is the Chairman of Points of Light. Michelle Nunn is the CEO of Points of Light.

 

Keywords: FEMACorps, George H.W. Bush, Points of Light, Serve America Act, United We Serve, volunteering, White House
In the aftermath of September 11th, we came together as a country to show that we were there for each other. This year’s National Day of Service and Remembrance once again reminded us of that unity.
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President Obama marks the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks by remembering the innocent lives lost, and honoring the first responders and men and women in uniform who have served and sacrificed to keep our country safe.
The Service News Digest is a regular feature on the Serve.gov blog. In this series, we showcase news highlights that feature national service, and Corporation for National and Community Service programs. Take a look at some of the great stories that had people talking recently.
For Tina Kiehn, an AmeriCorps NCCC member in Aurora, IL, the morning of September 11, 2001, started out as a day like any other. She was at her service site, helping a class of first graders adjust to the new school year. With summer just behind them, Kiehn and her team expected a normal daily schedule: classes, recess, homework help.
Eleven years later and the tide has surely turned, at least in one very significant way. The anniversary of September 11th is no longer only a day known for a horrific tragedy on our national landscape. It is now also America’s largest day of charitable service and good deeds, in honor of my late brother and all those who perished that sunny September morning.
For the last few weeks, we’ve been discussing how and why you should serve on the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. Now with 9/11 Day just around the corner, it’s time to roll up your sleeves, get out there, and serve!
The September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance arrives in less than a week, but service projects have already begun, and more will take place this weekend and continue through 9/11 Day. If you don't have plans and are looking to serve, we have an overview of how volunteers across the country will pay tribute to and honor the victims and heroes of September 11th across the nation.
There’s a saying that goes, “be ready, so you don’t have to get ready.” Every family and workplace needs to have a plan of action to keep everyone safe when the unexpected happens. Sounds like the perfect excuse to discuss National Preparedness Month.
The Service News Digest is a regular feature on the Serve.gov blog. In this series, we showcase news highlights that feature national service, and Corporation for National and Community Service programs. Take a look at some of the great stories that had people talking recently.
September 11th can be a challenging topic for educators. For younger students who weren’t born or were very young in 2001, it’s history. For older students and teachers, it’s a vivid memory that may feel like a current event. Finding a way to make the day meaningful across the generations requires finesse and planning.
Since 1882, Americans have paused to observe Labor Day in a “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” But before you enjoy a well-earned day off on September 3, consider giving a minute to help an unemployed or underemployed person find satisfying work and help transform the holiday into “Give Labor Day.”
Since 1882, Americans have paused to observe Labor Day in a “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” But before you enjoy a well-earned day off on September 3, consider giving a minute to help an unemployed or underemployed person find satisfying work and help transform the holiday into “Give Labor Day.”
AmeriCorps and Senior Corps teams are responding in four Gulf Coast states as Hurricane Isaac moves toward the region.
My name is Ciera Russum and I'm a member of the Advanced Construction team at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School. We worked with the Green Building team to complete a full-gut rehab project on Greene Street.
With the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance just around the corner, many Americans will begin to reflect on the inconceivable tragedy of 9/11 and the incredible unity and service that emerged from it. While some of us may get lost in the quantitative measures of this disaster, it is important to appreciate the individual victim, hero, or survivor, as each has a unique story and personal testimony.
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The Service News Digest is a regular feature on the Serve.gov blog. In this series, we showcase news highlights that feature national service, and Corporation for National and Community Service programs. Take a look at some of the great stories that had people talking recently.
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As the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance draws closer, you may be making plans to join in with a service project of your own but then realize that you have no idea where to start. We can help you with that.
The Service News Digest is a regular feature on the Serve.Gov blog. In this series, we showcase news highlights that feature national service, and Corporation for National and Community Service programs. Take a look at some of the great stories that had people talking recently.
Members of the group Game Changerz, also known as Sports Wives With Purpose, were in Washington recently, and we took the opportunity to ask them to talk about their favorite children’s books and the lessons they teach.
At the Corporation for National and Community Service, we hear and learn about amazing things happening through national service every day. But the best way to experience the power of national service isn’t in our headquarters in Washington, DC.
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The Service News Digest is a regular feature on the Serve.Gov blog. In this series, we showcase news highlights that feature national service, and Corporation for National and Community Service programs. Take a look at some of the great stories that had people talking recently.
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