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National Day of Service

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Monday, January 19, 2009

TODAY, THE nation honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose tireless quest for equality and justice helped to make possible tomorrow's historic inauguration of the first African American as president of the United States. Today's holiday is meant to be a day of national service, a day when a grateful nation emulates Dr. King's sacrifice and service to others so that they may know a better life. It is in that spirit that President-elect Barack Obama has called on Americans to give back by tapping the enthusiasm of the millions who flocked to his candidacy and propelled him to the White House.

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"We already have several million people already signed up through thousands of sites that were organized through our Web site," Mr. Obama told us during a visit Thursday, which would have been Dr. King's 80th birthday. "We provide them with a package of resources, and they run with it." Some of the activities taking place across the United States include making care packages for troops serving overseas, collecting food for and serving meals to the homeless, cleaning neighborhoods, parks and waterways, and building affordable housing.

But the next president doesn't envision this call to service as a one-day event. He is intent on creating a culture of service. "Part of my message in every speech I hope that I give over the next four years is that government can't do everything and everyone has a role," Mr. Obama said.

The new administration is committed to expanding the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, the 16-year-old organization administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. It plans to create service organizations to get people to actively participate in finding solutions to the problems facing the country. There will be specific entities for those interested in energy independence, education, health-care reform and help for veterans. Mr. Obama has set a goal of 50 hours of community service per year for middle and high school students. To encourage 100 hours of service per year from college students, Mr. Obama proposes a $4,000 tax credit for their education. And he pledges to improve volunteer programs aimed at senior citizens.

Dr. King once said, "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." We encourage you to visit www.mlkday.gov today to find a project that could use your greatness.


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