Service Nation on Friday morning

John Bridgeland, President and CEO of Civic Enterprises kicks off the “party around service” with an enthusiastic crowd. Thanks leaders and organizers et al by name.

Film tribute to those whose lives were personally affected by the tragic events of Sept. 11th, 2001, created by the National September 11th Memorial and Museum.

National anthem! Melinda Doolittle from American Idol Season Six. BIG soft spot in my heart for Melinda Doolittle.

Vartan Gregorian, Service Nation Co-chair and President of the Carnegie Corporation speaks.  Giving is part of our culture. Low income families give four percent of income to charities. Three-quarters of Americans give an average of $1800. annually.  Democracy is not a spectator sport, we have to work to make it a success, we should praise people who serve as elected officials. Benefits of our society oblige us to return the favor. “It’s in giving that we receive” – St. Francis. Become a true citizen through giving. “Live out our passions lest we be judged as not having lived at all” (missed who the paraphrased quotation is from).

Laurie Tisch of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund introduced NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mayor Bloomberg speaks. “When you talk about volunteerism, America needs us,” including military service members who are putting their life on the line for us. We are the beneficiaries of their service. Their families suffer the loss. Service can respond to issues such as global warming. In NY they are planting a million trees. Converting city government, schools, own home to CFL bulbs.

First Lady Laura Bush speaks. Talks about engaging older adults volunteering by mentoring and tutoring youth. Cites examples of national service participants. “We can build an America with 100 million volunteers.” (I apologize for the brief paragraph but I inadvertently missed the first part of her talk. See the text from the White House Press Office. )

Hearing from representatives of different programs:

City Year Philadelphia alum Leon McClain speaks about regretful choices he made to give into peer pressure, and ended up with two bullets in his leg, but turned his life around when he joined City Year. Talks about a student Ray he worked with and the feeling of satisfaction he gets from knowing he made a difference.

Walter Atwood, alum of original Civilian Conservation Corps, upon which AmeriCorps*NCCC is based.

Antonio Ramirez, Youthbuild alum, crediting AmeriCorps with helping him become his family’s first Associates of Arts (AA) degree holder. Has an infant daughter, and he’s proud to be able to create a good future for her and his family.

Brianna O’Brien, Hands On Network staff who served in New Orleans after Katrina.

Carolyn Kennedy (daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy) introduced Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Kennedy’s uncle Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Hatch have worked together on issues for a long time in the Senate together.

Hatch officially announced the bill this morning at the Service Nation Summit and spoke touchingly of his work with Kennedy across the aisle. The senators have worked together for a long time and Hatch’s affection for his friend was obvious and endearing. (Kennedy was convalescing at home.)

In a statement that drew enthusiastic applause, Hatch announced that both Senators McCain and Obama have signed on to co-sponsor the legislation! To the bi-partisan crowd, all supporters of national service, the support of both Presidential candidates means a lot. Hopes are high for national service and the next administration. Other co-sponsors include Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), and RPCV Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

In an interview with Hatch after his speech, he addressed a question about the cost to government of national service. The bill, he said, “should please those who are concerned about cost.” He cited the relatively low cost of supporting trained volunteers compared to the cost of allowing high schoolers to drop out, and ignoring young people who have lost their role models to prison and worse fates. Further, according to Hatch, elevating these youth, educating them, and connecting them with job skills will serve the economy well, as will the creation of jobs, including in the energy industry.

After the morning line up of speakers, the gathering broke into panel discussions. See the schedule here.

See Change/Wire (the Service Nation blog) for notes on the Lunch. Follow RocchiJulia on Twitter for tweets.

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