NCVS Opening Plenary Monday Night

Michelle Obama speaking at NCVS 09

Michelle Obama speaking at NCVS 09

The launch of the National Conference on Volunteering and Service Monday night brought a huge crowd of people out to hear First Lady Michelle Obama speak, among other familiar faces.

When I arrived, the throngs of people waiting in line to go through security matched the throngs of people already inside the hall, and everyone was waiting for Michelle Obama. Helping the time fly was comic/emcee Wally Collins who made fun of individual audience members between introducing musical acts like Sondre Lerche and the Glide Ensemble. Also in the lead-in to the main event, Shawn Rubin accepted the Eli Segal Award from AmeriCorps Alums, Alan Khazei of Be the Change, Inc., spoke introducing corporate sponsor Shannon Schuyler of PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The highlight of the night didn’t come at the end, as I would have expected. Michelle Obama took the stage somewhere in the middle of the opening event, and everyone in the crowd cheered and stood if they could. Her words were inspiring of course, but I was more stunned by the simple fact of her presence—the President’s wife chose to spend time with us. She used to run a Public Allies AmeriCorps program—and said to start that she was with her people. What I liked the best about what she said was the reaction she and President Obama received when they each decided to forego lucrative careers for nonprofit jobs—Mrs. Obama at Public Allies and Pres. Obama at various nonprofits like the Developing Communities Project where he was a community organizer. She said, regarding people in our lives who dismiss our career choices: “But what these folks don’t understand is that the story of progress in this nation has always been the story of people who chose — in times of trial and struggle — to serve it.”

Mrs. Obama also announced the launch of the United We Serve summer of service initiative, which will last through Sept. 11th of this year, which will make community service easy to do for anyone, and focus on health care, energy Continue reading

Service Nation Summit the Finale

BetheChangeInc and RocchiJulia are tweeting.

Also see this post from Future Leaders in Philanthropy (FLiP).

Jean Case of the Case Foundation: bring the sectors together to change the conversation about national service and sustain the energy we’ve felt here. Introducing the CEO Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs. “It says something when one of the most powerful companies in the world works so hard to eliminate inequalities.”

Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs: Staff of Goldman Sachs are expected to volunteer with organizations they care about. People already come with a strong sense of service. People leaving the firm often go on to public service, so the corporate volunteer program at Goldman Sachs must be strong. One corporate engagement program, 10,000 Woman, is a program that enables business and management education for women in developing countries and the United States who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. Alligns with fundamental business of Goldman Sachs. Program develop curricula, works with professors, increases accessibility of business education. Includes Goldman Staff employees through its mentor-match connections to the women seeking business education. Another Goldman Sachs outreach area includes helping nonprofits through the Capacity Building Initiative and is launching a new enterprise, Leadership in Service, a daylong conference for nonprofit executives. Coming Spring 2009, with Case Foundation. Sessions on specific areas like board development, financial management, staff development, and program evaluation.

Rick Stengel, Managing Editor of TIME. Great speaker. Educate the governed, essential for a democracy. He’s just doing his job.

Anne S. Moore, Chairman and CEO of TIME Inc. Doesn’t play favorites among staff and sees amazing work come across her desk. It’s hard to knock her socks off. Occasionally her breath is taken away. “If you want to be happy for a lifetime, help other people” — quoting from a Rabbi’s advice to a newly married couple. Says Rick is her favorite editor today. Will support him in escalating the call to serve. Introduces Hillary Clinton.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Each of us can serve in a way that suits our talents and interests. Service Nation can make sure that the table of service in the United States can be big enough so that everyone can find a place. Many problems in the United States but with Service Nation’s leadership, we “can turn what is an American phenomenon and turn it into a great and growing movement.” AmeriCorps members turn a one-or-two year commitment into a lifetime of service. Bill Clinton says AmeriCorps is “one of his favorite accomplishments.” Clinton is proud to join the co-sponsorship on the Serve America Act. Also working on the U.S. Public Service Academy bill with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA). Need more youth to consider public service. She says she was taught the importance of service in church and school as a youth, that she owed something back. She says she has been in service her entire life, and it has taught her a lot about herself. “A candle loses nothing of its light by lighting other candles” – quoting from Fr. James Keller. “What we are doing is going out and igniting tens of millions of other candles.” Every year her staff volunteers on 9/11 and helped kick off MyGoodDeed.org, founded by Jay Winuk in the spirit of his brother Glenn Winuk who lost his life when he went into a tower as a volunteer firefighter on 9/11 to help. Clinton says we are the beneficiaries of the American experiment and struggle against enemy forces. “I think it takes a village, and now it takes a nation….Service Nation, we are ready…”

Followed by…Jon Bon Jovi…”How am I supposed to follow that?” The rocker is optimistic that candidates are going to meet and exceed goals of Service Nation, with the help and support of Service Nation and its partners. Proud that his oldest daughter was present to hear Hillary Clinton speak. Bon Jovi was born “a year to the day” after the creation of the Peace Corps. His oldest daughter was born the year AmeriCorps was created. “You might remember me as a 26 year old with a guitar and a dream,” he says. You don’t have to be wealthy to tap into the “power of we.” He is now the co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul Arena Football League team which serves its community in addition to playing football. The team takes on projects such as building homes and reclaiming troubled urban neighborhoods. “I want to make volunteerism the new black!” (If you don’t know, “the new black” means “the coolest thing ever.” I had to ask. In Portland we tend towards blues and greens I guess?)

Capt. Amy Clements of Colorado. Reading the Declaration of Service on stage with others who enthusiastically share in the reading. Consider signing the Declaration if you are of a mind to!

Dr. Mehmet Oz, Founder of the privately funded service program HealthCorps, heart surgeon, author, and Oprah favorite! [Life altering side comment: I have met a really interesting woman Amy B. on the Service Nation media team, who works with Health Corps and knows Dr. Oz, who in turn works with and knows Oprah. I am two degrees of separation from Oprah. I LOVE Oprah. What a great day today is.] Service Nation has the right prescription, Dr. Oz says, in bringing the private sector and the public sector together. Introduces Arnold Schwarzenegger who joins us by satellite.

Arnold! Has promised not to leave California till the state budget is passed — apologizes for not being here in person. He and Maria are all “pumped up” over national service. He’s really funny and has made the audience laugh out loud several times in the first few minutes of his talk. Blunt and has good timing to boot. As a youth, his goals were simple: build a perfect body and then go to Hollywood to make movies. He says he never would have guessed he’d be happy doing service, working for no salary (he hasn’t accepted a salary from the state of California since becoming governor). He started out serving people to “pump them up” but they pumped him up! Wasn’t making a million dollars, but “felt like a million dollars.” Says the Kennedy influence brought him into service. (His wife, journalist Maria Shriver, is the daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver who was active with the Special Olympics movement, and Sargent Shriver the first director of Peace Corps. She is also a niece of late President John F. Kennedy.) Going “from one thing to the next,” he got involved with fitness and exercising as a public health issue. Now he loves being a governor, to get up every morning to think “What can I do for these millions of people?” Sometimes government gets in the way. For example, volunteers couldn’t work on union-protected projects till he helped changed the law to pave the way for volunteers to serve. Today he tells his children (with a weight my parents could not have had if they had told me) that they can be millionaires if they want, but that they should reserve a place on their resumes for service. He also was the first governor to elevate the California commissioner on voluntary action and and service, Jesuit Volunteer Corps Alumnae Karen Baker, to a cabinet-level post. (New York governor David Patterson announced last night that he planned to do the same.)

With the conclusion of Schwarzenegger’s speech, Emily Cherniack of Be the Change Inc. thanked sponsors and partners, and the historic event concluded with the audience and volunteers enjoying a networking period.

Service Nation Summit

A campaign for service

Want to keep up with the latest Service Nation news? Follow Service Nation news through BetheChangeInc on Twitter!

On September 11 and 12, 500 leaders from public, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors will come together in New York City to call on the next president of the United States to “enact a new era of voluntary service and civic engagement in America, an era in which all Americans will work together to solve our greatest and most persistent societal challenges.”

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain (presidential nominees of the two major parties) have both now confirmed that they will speak at the Service Nation Summit.

And you can watch it live (Thursday, 8 pm EDT) on CNN!

Other speakers at the two-day event will include First Lady Laura Bush (invited), Senator Hillary Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The aim of the summit will be to lay out a policy blue print for solving tough social problems through expanding citizen service. Read the TIME magazine article from this summer by TIME Managing Editor Rick Stengel.

The Service Nation campaign is a coalition of over 110 organizations (including Idealist.org) that has been organized by Be the Change Inc. and founded by City Year‘s founder Alan Khazei. The initiative will come to a service project near you on September 27 with over 1000 events in communities across the country on the Service Nation Day of Action. Learn more and to find out how you can get involved with the Service Nation campaign in your community. Read more on The Page blog by Mark Halperin.

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Do you have questions to ask of Senators McCain or Obama about national service?

At the Service Nation Summit Presidential Candidates’s Forum Sept. 11, facilitators will ask questions submitted on the Service Nation web site.

Also, check out the Service Nation page on Facebook.