Living Dr. Martin Luther King's Example: Drum Majors for Change in Our Communities

As the nation struggles with far-reaching challenges, ranging from helping struggling young people achieve success in school and life to assisting veterans returning home from the battlefield, there are heroes among us whose unwavering commitment provides inspiration and an example to us all.

At the Corporation for National and Community Service, we call these heroes Drum Majors for Service. These are the ordinary citizens whose everyday acts of service to others make our country extraordinary. Every day, they are rolling up their sleeves and helping build what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called "the beloved community."

As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Day holiday, we are honoring dedicated service leaders who live their lives in the model Dr. King described -- summoning their "drum major instinct" to bring justice, peace and respectful helping hands to those in need.

These men and women have overcome personal challenges to mentor young people,
care for seniors and lift up others in their communities. They also are providing a blueprint for sustained change and the motivation we need to make service a long-term solution to some of our nation's most pressing problems.

Anthony McAuley of Los Angeles has worked tirelessly to improve the health of his neighbors and fellow congregants at the Emmanuel -- H.M. Turner African Methodist Church. Leading the Health and Wellness Ministry, he organizes health fairs where underserved citizens can get critical exams and screenings for vision and hearing, HIV and diabetes. He's also tackling the problem of obesity among African American women by spearheading a community obesity initiative to motivate healthy lifestyles. With humility and sensitivity, his support for the community is unwavering and unconditional.

Hilda White from Vicksburg, Mississippi inspires young people -- and adults -- in her life each day. The 67-year-old, who is the legal guardian of her two grandsons, regularly tutors and mentors junior high and high school students. She also coaches them on basic life skills, empowering young people to see their potential to be productive members of the community. On MLK Day, Ms. White will be leading her students in cleaning a two mile stretch of road as a part of their ongoing commitment to the Adopt-a-Highway program.

On this, the 25th anniversary of the King Holiday, volunteers will work hand in hand on more than 13,000 service projects across the nation. In Boston, some will work to inspire a love of science among high school students. In Atlanta, they will pack thousands of food packages for hungry families. These projects -- and thousands more like them -- will make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens across the nation. In each case, service is helping solve local problems, bring people together and build stronger communities.

But we can't be satisfied with a single day of service. On this Martin Luther King holiday, I challenge all Americans to commit themselves to a lifetime of service that brings new opportunities to our communities. I am asking citizens young and old to aspire to the model that Anthony McAuley, Hilda White and so many other drum majors provide. The MLK25 Challenge is a pledge to take at least 25 actions during 2011 to make a difference in the lives of others.

To chart your own path of service, you might choose to volunteer in a range of efforts or make a sustained commitment to a single cause. There is no shortage of work to be done or lack of ways to get involved. The key is to find what you are passionate about, give of yourself to help others and apply your energy toward helping make our communities and our nation stronger. As Dr. King so eloquently said: "Life's most urgent and persistent question is what are you doing for others."

You can find volunteer opportunities and get ideas for your own projects by visiting