Alan Khazei: The Best Bet to Carry Ted Kennedy's Legacy Forward

On Dec. 8, Massachusetts voters will have a rare opportunity
to elect one of the nation’s leading social entrepreneurs to Congress. Alan
Khazei
, the founder of City Year, is making a bid to fill the late Sen. Edward
M. Kennedy’s senate seat. A political newcomer with a track record of amazing
practical accomplishments, Khazei is well suited to carry on Kennedy’s legacy
and help President Obama advance meaningful change.

Khazei’s campaign has been likened to a ‘Mr. Smith Goes to
Washington’ run. But Khazei is no novice. He is one of the country’s most respected
reformers and his work with City Year is studied in universities around the
world. He has demonstrated the savvy, persuasive skills and
commitment needed to realize big ideas.

In 1988, Khazei cofounded City
Year to demonstrate how national service programs—non-military, structured
opportunities for citizens to serve—could transform society. At the time, national
service was an idea that had been discussed for more than 80 years, but nobody had ever figured out
how to give it political legs. Under Khazei’s leadership, City Year’s “corps
members” became charismatic ambassadors for national service -- so impressive
that Bill Clinton asked Khazei to help him create AmeriCorps based on his
model, which has spread to 19 cities, as well as to South Africa.

Khazei later demonstrated
political acumen when he led a movement to defeat Republican attempts to
dismantle AmeriCorps. This past April, President Obama signed the Edward M.
Kennedy Serve America Act
, legislation that Khazei worked to advance with Sen.
Kennedy and his co-sponsor Sen. Orrin Hatch, and other lawmakers on both sides
of the aisle. The act triples the reach of AmeriCorps and expands service
opportunities for older Americans. Because of Khazei, national service is today
a living reality that has transformed 600,000 lives and strengthened thousands
of social organizations.

For twenty years, Khazei has worked alongside the nation’s
leading innovators.  Groups like
Teach for America, College Summit, Year Up, Ashoka, the Harlem Children’s Zone
and the KIPP schools. These organizations are demonstrating outstanding results
against tough social problems. As a U.S. Senator, Khazei will bring a rare, in depth understanding
of promising new ideas and models into Congress so they can be made to work for
the people of Massachusetts and all Americans. He has proven that he understands and deeply cares about
implementation, the toughest part of governing, and knows how to take a vision
and make it work at scale, while maintaining integrity.  

Although he is new to electoral politics, he has also shown
that he can navigate political waters and build constituencies for his ideas.
In 2008, he enlisted the support of hundreds of leaders behind a campaign for
national service
. They included Barack Obama and John McCain, who shared a
stage two months before the presidential election
, as well as Hillary Clinton,
Laura Bush, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Arnold
Schwartzenegger and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff.

Khazei has built a reputation as a trustworthy, pragmatic, approachable
and plain speaking reformer. At a time, when Washington desperately needs to
move from a destructive polarization towards collaborative problem solving, he
is ideally suited to lead the way forward. As Jonathan Alter noted in Newsweek, he is the only candidate running to fill
Sen. Kennedy’s seat who backs the meaningful education reform that President
Obama seeks to advance and Sen. Kennedy championed. He has also refused to take
campaign contributions from lobbyists.

Khazei is the real deal. He demonstrated commitment to
public service for years when no one was looking. Now, after two decades of
success outside government, he is ready to bring into office a mature
understanding of what it takes – really takes -- to lead changes that will
improve people’s lives.