One week from today is the federally observed birthday of Martin Luther King, junior, and this year, it is also the day before the Inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. The nation’s 44th President also wants to make this a day to highlight volunteer, community service, and he’s recruited a high-profile former fed to make his case.
Linda Douglass, the chief spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, is introducing a new program and website, USAService.org, designed to capture enthusiasm about the inauguration, and use it to promote volunteer community service.
“What this is is essentially a ‘Craigslist’,” she explains to reporters at the Mayflower Hotel last Friday. “It’s a place where we’re connecting people who have opportunities for service, and people who want to serve,”
Even though he needs little introduction, Douglass then introduced former Secretary of State Colin Powell, also former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Powell, who supported Mr. Obama’s candidacy during the recent presidential election campaigns, is an honorary chairman of the President-elect’s Inaugural Committee.
Powell talked about the effort, officially called “Renew America Together”, in which the President-elect, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, along with their wives and families, will travel throughout the Washington area on the King holiday participating in community service projects.
“They will demonstrate their committment to this on the King holiday, which as most people know is not only a ‘day off’, but, as it has been for the last 14 years, is a ‘day on’, when we can reach out to our fellow citizens in need.”
Powell likens the program to the “Points of Light” volunteer program initiated by another former boss, President George H.W. Bush. But this time, a new President, who swears by his BlackBerry, wants to harness the Internet, through the USAService.org website, to spur other Americans to public service.
It’s a great site, and it shows you the many, many participating organizations that we have throughout the country that, on a daily basis, are involved in giving service to others.
And Powell says if you don’t see a volunteer or community service program that suits your talents and skills, the website also provides an opportunity for citizens to begin their own community service program, rallying neighbors and friends to work at local schools or food banks.
The former Secretary of State was also asked to comment on the President-elect’s nominee to take his former position in the next administration,
“Hillary Clinton is a most distinguished public servant,” he said, talking about the New York Senator tapped to be the nation’s next senior diplomat. “I am a very close friend of hers, and I congratulate her on her appointment to be Secretary of State, and I think she’ll do a very, very fine job.”
Powell also answered “No!” when asked if he had been offered, or discussed accepting, a cabinet position in the Obama Administration.
“I’m very happy in private life, thank you, and I’m trying to be as helpful as I can to the President-elect and the Vice President-elect. I’ve made it very clear that I’m not looking for a job, and I’m not looking for a position.”