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Celebrating MLK Day with City Year

Jack Lew, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, reflects on his committment to service throughout his life, and discusses the importance of bettering our communities through service.

Editor's Note: This post was originally posted on the OMB blog.

Today, I am joining hundreds of volunteers at Intermediate School 292 in Brooklyn as part of City Year’s celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. I look forward to seeing the hundreds of energetic and idealistic City Year corps members who are always an inspiration.

I helped to launch City Year New York after September 11 as part of our City's healing, and was honored to chair its board. MLK day at City Year always brings together hundreds of people eager and excited to give something of themselves, not just to honor Dr. King, but also to improve their community.

Advancing the idea that MLK day should be a "day on" doing service rather than just another "day off", more than 20 members of the Cabinet are at schools, homeless shelters, and other community service organizations pitching in.

Pursuing careers in public service is another way to express the commitment to making our communities and nation better and stronger. During the Clinton Administration I was proud to do my part to help pass the national community service legislation that started Americorps, which supports community service projects that are underway every day across our nation.

It is an honor once again to be working for a President who believes deeply in the power of community service and is committed to creating more opportunities for Americans to serve.

Just a few months after coming into office, President Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, expanding opportunities for Americans to serve their communities, scaling AmeriCorps from 75,000 volunteers up to 250,000 by 2017. The President’s Budget proposal for FY2011 backed up the promise of that legislation, providing funding for 105,000 AmeriCorps members in 2011, an increase of 20,000 from 2010, as well as supporting the National Civilian Community Corps program, a full-time program that dispatches teams to areas in need, with a focus on disaster relief. Understanding that outcomes are as important as good intentions, the Serve America Act also created a Social Innovation Fund to invest in ideas that are proven to improve outcomes and "what works" funds in federal agencies to promote effective and innovative programs.

And recognizing that Americans wanted to do their part during the recent economic downturn to help their fellow citizens, the President launched United We Serve, a nationwide call to service. In fact, today’s day of service is part of that initiative.

Dr. King once said that “everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” That is as true today as it was when he said those words. I hope everyone has a chance to give back to their communities and their country today and every day, and that we can continue to strive to be great through our service.

Jack Lew is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget