Newsletter – September 2007
The Case for National Service
The Case for National Service
“A Time To Serve”
September 10, 2007
Vol. 170, No. II
BY: Richard Stengel
“But at this moment in our history, 220 years after the Constitutional Convention, the way to get citizens involved in civic life, the way to create a common culture that will make a virtue of our diversity, the way to give us that more capacious sense of “we” … is universal national service. No, not mandatory or compulsory service but service that is in our enlightened self-interest as a nation.”
It is the simple but compelling idea that devoting a year or more to national service, whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American.
The service movement itself began to take off in the 1980s, and today there is a renaissance of dynamic altruistic organizations in the U.S., from Teach for America to City Year to Senior Corps, many of them under the umbrella of AmeriCorps. In a 2002 poll, 70% of Americans thought universal service was a good idea.
Young men and women have made their patriotism all too real by volunteering to fight two wars on foreign soil. But we have battlefields in America, too — particularly in education and health care — and the commitment of soldiers abroad has left others yearning to make a parallel commitment here at home.
(This story can be read in its entirety at: http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/0,28757,1657256,00.html.)
Maria Shriver discusses the TIME article and CaliforniaVolunteers in the San Francisco Chronicle
by: Maria Shriver
Appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle
Monday, September 10, 2007
“We are the ones we have been waiting for” is the title of the Hopi prayer I read at my husband’s inauguration in January. I’m here today to reinforce the truth of these words – it’s about WE. Time Magazine’s recent cover story focuses on the need for national service. I see it as a call Californians to look in and find out how we can be the difference.
Too often, we talk about the power of one; I dare us to think about the power of WE. While every Californian can make a difference, if we joined together, we can create change. I am here today to tell you that my work is about WE.
WE serve – As Honorary Chair of CaliforniaVolunteers, together our goal is to make service fun, rewarding and accessible. No matter where you live in the state, you can search online for volunteer opportunities in your community that match your interests. My family believes we are never too young or old to serve. Today, there are nearly 30,000 volunteer opportunities available for people who want to serve but don’t know how … and now they do.
WE prepare – Through CaliforniaVolunteers’ California Citizen Corps, we are helping communities prepare and respond to emergencies and disasters. There are many programs that you can be involved in from Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) to the Medical Reserve Corps, Volunteers in Police Service and Fire Corps – all are working to prepare California.
WE educate, play, garden – We have established Cesar E. Chavez after-school service clubs for children in Title I middle schools to teach them about the life and values of Chavez and make volunteering a part of their life. In celebration of the Chavez holiday, this year we built community playspaces for more than 100,000 children. Our 2,500 volunteers constructed playgrounds in 10 different communities and gardens were planted, giving children the opportunity to serve and get their hands dirty from their own hard work.
WE invest, empower, care – With three of the poorest cities in our nation located in California, we need to invest in our working families and empower them. I am thrilled to be working with CaliforniaVolunteers, nonprofit legal aid services and great statewide leaders to connect working families with the federal Earned Income Tax Credit whereby millions in dollars goes unclaimed by Californians each year.
A great idea in the Time article is the expansion of the Civilian Conservation Corps into a “Green Corps,” which could tackle projects and combat climate change. This could act as the seed for a vast expansion of our “green collar” workforce. I also agree with the need for a Cabinet level position in federal government to focus on service. It is important for ideals that encompass service, such as compassion and caring, are woven in roles of leadership.
WE need to inspire our children to think about careers in service. Many people say they didn’t know about the Peace Corps, VISTA, and AmeriCorps programs such as City Year and Teach for America. Talk to your kids about these opportunities and about the power of service. Remember life is more than a job with a big pay check – let’s strive for a profession that fuels the soul.
Look at Dustin Ryen from Sacramento. Ryen was looking forward to a week with his friends at a beach house in Monterey. But his youth adviser was adamant he join a weeklong trip to Mexico to build houses for needy families. His youth adviser persevered and Ryen, along with 12 others, traveled to Mexico. After the group presented a house to a family, the mother pulled every penny to prepare the best meal for her benefactors. Her tears of joy struck a deep chord with Ryen and he has made service a central component of his life including working with foster youth and volunteering at local nonprofits.
I hope you will join me, and people like Ryen, in believing that we can be a state powered by WE. The next time you start to think about yourself, think about ways WE can serve together.
The truth is this: WE Californians are 38 million strong. WE can be the difference in our communities. WE are the ones we have been waiting for.
Want to volunteer? Check out the statewide Web site for volunteering, the largest in the nation, at www.CaliforniaVolunteers.org.
Maria Shriver is the first lady of California and honorary chair of CaliforniaVolunteers.
September is National Preparedness Month
3rd Annual Day of Preparedness
10 a.m.– 2 p.m.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
3271 Marysville Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95815
And don’t forget, CaliforniaVolunteers is also sponsoring the 2007 National Emergency Preparedness Conference, October 11-13 at the Capitol Christian Center in Sacramento. For more information or to register for the conference, please visit www.srccc.org.
Find It. Do It. Share It. Volunteer Contest
Inspired by the launch of the Disney-sponsored contest, one CaliforniaVolunteers team member shared her first volunteer experience:
When I was a child I logged hundreds of volunteer hours at my mom’s office. I was stuffing envelopes, stapling and filing almost every weekend. Those hours of forced volunteerism taught me a lot about working in an office. I learned how to collate and I became quick at alphabetizing files. I even mastered the art of unjamming the photocopy machine. And while all those skills ended up helping my mom’s projects and gave me experience that would later help me when I entered the work force, they didn’t really teach me a whole lot about volunteerism. That lesson came as a young teenager.
It was mid November and my mother had informed us that we weren’t going to be having a Thanksgiving dinner that year. I was bummed. No Thanksgiving meant none of my mom’s famous mashed potatoes, no turkey legs to fight over and no stuffing with toasted pecans and spiced sausage. This was very sad news. I was going to have to wait another 365 days before I could have all of her once-a-year culinary specialties. Surely she was kidding about no Thanksgiving. Nope, she wasn’t. She told us we were going to Fresno to serve food at a homeless shelter.
As a new thirteen year old member of the teen scene I wasn’t all that keen on waking up early then driving an hour to Fresno just to work in a kitchen on Thanksgiving. I mean, schools and business close down for Thanksgiving so people can spend time at home with their families not so people can spend the day working in a kitchen wearing a hair net, an apron and plastic gloves. This was not going to be cool!
Once we arrived my attitude changed almost instantly. I saw families already lined up at eight o’clock in the morning. There were families of moms, dads and children. There were young couples, older couples and individuals. I felt a tinge of shame as I got out of our warm car and stepped in to the icy November air that the families had already been waiting in for who knows how long.
We got inside and I anxiously grabbed my apron, hat and gloves. I forgot about how uncool I was going to look. I forgot about my mom’s mashed potatoes. I forgot about having to wait for another year before my next Mom cooked Thanksgiving meal. What I found myself caring about was serving a warm Thanksgiving meal to all those families who were waiting outside. I cared about getting freshly cooked dinner rolls to every table. I cared about giving everyone a smile so they felt welcome. I wanted to make sure that everyone enjoyed sharing their hot meal with their family.
That day I realized that the schools and businesses were closed not just for me to spend a day at home with my family eating turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing but so that all families could be together. Our family was together that day; we were working together so that other families could enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner even if that meant that we gave up ours.
The next year about mid November I asked my mom, “Are we going back to serve dinner again?” I had finally learned what it meant to be a volunteer.
To read more inspiring service stories and other blogs about volunteering visit the CaliforniaVolunteers blog.
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