Categorized in Int’l Philanthropy, Public Foreign Aid

There is an electric feeling in the air and a sense of optimism that feels so fresh – as though we’ve finally sloughed off the woolly, fear-laden misery of the last eight years.  I would say it feels like spring, but there is snow on the ground.

Last night’s victory by Barak Obama was historic – a clear example that America is empowered to choose its future direction with Americans setting the course.  While there is much to celebrate, there is much to do.

In acceptance and conciliatory speeches alike, the candidates, each a role model in service to the country, emphasized that we must get on with our work , and there is much work to be done. Obama’s words put it clearly into perspective:

“So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers , in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.”

What can this new spirit of service look like?

For starters, both Obama and McCain are co-sponsors of the Serve America Act sponsored by Edward Kennedy to usher in renewed commitment to strengthen community service and increase funding for innovative, non-profit programs.  Tripling participation in Ameri-Corps, incenting non-profit programs to reach scale, and helping to recruit more volunteers are just a few key initiatives of the Act.

Newly introduced, it will be the will of both parties to protect this bill from bogging down in the too-much/not-enough-government-intervention debates surrounding philanthropy and the charitable sector.  Our politicians must remember, they are among the strongest role models for service that our country has to offer , and now, they must lead to make this vision a reality.

Beyond the government and its role in promoting service and responsibility, there is the opportunity for each American to find a place where they can serve.  On their neighbourhood block’s safety watch, with their religious organization’s food drive, fundraising for a NGO working in the developing world, as a young person starting their own social venture, mid-career service on the board of a local non-profit, as a retired person contributing their professional skills to the Peace Corpsand most importantly, as an ordinary citizen being aware of and curious at the world around them.  The options are limitless.

But hard work starts now.  Don’t wait.  Yes you can.

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