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Leaders Propose Next Steps to Promote Public Service

The two-day ServiceNation Summit came to a close Sept. 12 with a call to action. “This summit and the Day of Action on Sept. 27 introduce a yearlong grassroots effort to promote the power and joy of service,” said Caroline Kennedy, vice chair of the New York City Fund for Public Schools.

The following ideas were among the speakers’ suggestions for how to move forward:

• Noting that the rising cost of college saddles graduates with debts that make it difficult to think about service, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., announced that she and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., have proposed the formation of a U.S. Public Service Academy, modeled on the military academies. A four-year education would be subsidized in return for a five-year commitment to public service. “Change is going to happen,” she said. “Service can bring the right kind of change.”

• Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, gave an example of how the private sector can be involved as he described one of his company’s recently announced programs, the 10,000 Women global initiative. His firm has pledged $100 million for business and management training for 10,000 women in developing countries and targeted areas in the United States. A key component of the program is mentoring. “When we put out the call for mentors, the response was overwhelming,” said Blankfein.

• “Find a challenge that speaks to you,” said Jon Bon Jovi, musician and founder of the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting the problems that lead to a cycle of poverty and homelessness. “Life is a team sport, and the team that works together, wins,” he said.

• Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R, speaking via video, said, “We have to market and promote service more effectively.” He suggested that states establish cabinet-level posts for service and create websites to connect volunteers with opportunities. Both have been done in California. On Sept. 11, Gov. David Patterson, D, announced a cabinet-level post for service for New York state.

Those in the audience, who were predominantly from ServiceNation supporting organizations, were asked to sign a Declaration of Service, making a personal commitment to some type of civic engagement in the coming year, and to participate in the Day of Action, for which more than 2,000 volunteer activities have been organized across the country. To find an event near you or to sign a Declaration of Service, go to the website

Cathie Gandel is a freelance writer based in New York.

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