Summit Launches Campaign. Now What?

ServiceNation Summit is a great beginning but the hard work lies ahead.

That was the consensus among those who attended the Friday morning sessions on education, disaster relief, environment, poverty and volunteer opportunities overseas.

Here are comments from four attendees:

• Melodye Kleinman, Pacific Palisades, Calif., executive director of the National Telemarketing Victim Call Center: “This is more of a call to action to people not in the room. I hope this enthusiasm and inspiration will have a ripple effect. Everybody has a different idea of service and I think people need to understand the different applications: full time, part time, once a year.”

• Betty Ruth, Athens, Ala., community volunteer and vice president of RSVP, an older adult volunteer program: “The 100 million volunteer goals are out there, but so often volunteer efforts are not documented. They are too often segmented and there are turf wars. Organizations in one area should come together under one umbrella.”

• Kevin Huffman, executive vice president of Teach for America: “This is terrific; we have come a long way in a decade.”

• Andrew Lee, Washington, D.C., executive director of CityBridge Foundation: “The fact that service has become a topic of national discourse in an election year is huge. Four or eight years ago, nobody talked about this, and now the candidates for president are expected to have a plan similar to those for energy and the environment and the economy.”

The opening speaker at the luncheon was musician/actor Alicia Keys, cofounder of Keep a Child Alive, which is dedicated to helping children with AIDS. “It’s an honor to be part of an event and a movement whose time has come,” she said.

She was followed by several other speakers, including Alan Khazei, CEO and founder of Be the Change, Inc. “We’re at a tipping point,” Khazei said. “And it’s up to us to truly become a nation of service.”

At the luncheon, political analyst David Gergen moderated a panel on strategy, asking the question “What will it take to finally break through?”

Afternoon sessions were expected to cover the private sector, higher education, faith-based institutions, the military and building strong bipartisan support for national and community service.

The ServiceNation Summit closes this evening. Among the speakers will be Caroline Kennedy, Jon Bon Jovi, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton.

As a next step, participants were urged to spread the word about the Day of Action on Sept. 27, encouraging Americans to volunteer for one of the thousands of events planned for that day. To sign up for an event in your community, go to the ServiceNation website.

Cathie Gandel is a freelance writer based in New York.

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