Over the past two years, President Obama has recognized that service is not separate from the national agenda, but a crucial part of it. This month, two separate events – the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps and the Points of Light event honoring President George H.W. Bush’s contribution to the modern service movement – bring the spotlight onto service in an unprecedented way. To recognize the inspiring work that is being done all over the country and the world, the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation will use our blog to celebrate service throughout the month of March.
On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps a mere two months after taking office. The Peace Corps was led by Sergeant Shriver, and has become an enduring symbol of our nation’s commitment to service at home and abroad. In the past 50 years, over 200,000 current and former Peace Corps Volunteers have encouraged progress, created opportunity, and fostered mutual respect and understanding in nearly 140 countries. They have worked on education, agriculture, business, and many other projects in communities around the world. Their commitment to international development and making a difference has and continues to be an enduring legacy.
In our increasingly interconnected world, the service and the mission of the Peace Corps are more relevant today than ever. Returned volunteers bring a deeper understanding of other cultures back to their home communities in the United States, and the lasting accomplishments of their work continue to strengthen our relationships with countries around the world.
Similarly, President George H. W. Bush established service as a priority in the White House, appointing Gregg Petersmeyer to lead the office. President Bush started the “thousand points of light,” highlighting a person or organization daily that was making a difference in its community as the “point of light.” This led to the creation of the Points of Light Institute, an organization that inspires, equips, and mobilizes people to be “at the center of transforming their communities.” With over 30,000,000 volunteer hours logged in the last year, valued at more than $626 million in human capital, Points of Light’s HandsOn Network is demonstrating the power of service every day. President Bush said it eloquently in his 1991 State of the Union speech: “We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light. And it is expressed by all who know the irresistible force of a child's hand, of a friend who stands by you and stays there, a volunteer's generous gesture, an idea that is simply right.”
To celebrate both of these milestones, during the month of March, this office will use our blog to highlight the stories and experiences of individuals who have dedicated their lives to service, as well as the service organizations that make their work possible.
Check back daily to read stories of great service in communities around the country and the world. And we hope you will share your story with us.
Sonal Shah is the Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation