President-elect Barack Obama, in a message being emailed out on Wednesday, is calling on supporters, as well as those who likely didn't back him in the election, to use the day prior to his inauguration to volunteer en masse for local community causes.
The National Day of Service, as it is being called, will fall on Martin Luther King Day -- itself a federally designated day for community volunteerism. But it's easy to imagine how this upcoming January 19th will be historic in the scope of participation.
For starters, Obama is soliciting partnerships from both ideological allies and adversaries -- from MoveOn.org to Focus on the Family -- as well as groups regularly engaged in community service and others that have never done it before.
Moreover, the approach, an aide says, will be very much bottom up: prospective volunteers will be asked to sign up for the project of their choice, regardless of whether or not it directly corresponds to Obama's political agenda. Finally, the president-elect is bringing to the table the type of organizing tools that make these enterprises work; in addition to an email being blasted out to his massive email list on Wednesday, the inaugural committee is launching a website sometime after the New Year that will help visitors network and instruct them about opportunities in their local neighborhoods.
It is the type of social interaction that buoyed Obama's primary and presidential candidacies, only this time applied to service, not politics.
Below is the letter being sent out by the Obama team:
Every time our nation faces crisis, our national experience has shown Americans rise to the challenge. While government has an important role to play in helping rekindle our economy and addressing the problems of a distressed nation, President-elect Obama believes each of us, as Americans, have a responsibility to do what we can for our communities and fellow citizens. We are one nation.
The United States is once again at a crossroads and that is why the President-elect hopes to use the occasion of his Inauguration to rally our nation to commit to service in our communities. We are asking for your organization's participation in meeting this challenge.
In 1994, Congress transformed the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday into a national day of community service to further commemorate a man who lived his life in service to others. As a tribute to that legacy and the very real needs of our nation, the President-elect and Vice President-elect will launch a national organizing effort on the eve of their Inauguration to engage Americans in service. This national day of service will fall on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 19, 2009 and, unlike past calls to service, President-elect Obama will ask Americans to do more than just offer a single day of service to their cities, towns and neighborhoods. He will ask all of us to make an ongoing commitment to our communities. Never has it been more important to come together in shared purpose to tackle the common challenges we face.
The call will go to all Americans to organize service projects and join others at events in their communities. As the Co-chairs of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, we invite you and your organization to join other Americans to organize service projects in your communities. The Presidential Inaugural Committee will offer Americans a new website to help promote your events and for Americans to make their commitments, build communities, find opportunities to serve and share their results. These can be events that orient people to your organization's work, engage people in direct service, or bring people together to reflect on Dr. King's legacy and how they can commit to becoming more engaged citizens. Please see the attached information on how to get involved.
We have a great opportunity to set the tone for the next four years and I know you will rise to the challenge. Thank you for all your support.