Imagine how much good could be done, how much could be accomplished to bring about positive change in our nation and around the world if people could unite and pull together. Big challenges like poverty, better education, environmental concerns, juvenile crime and gangs; smaller and more local challenges like illiteracy, more parks and recreational facilities, urban and rural blight.
It can't all be up to the government to deal with these problems and others. People helping other people -- volunteers -- can make a difference, as we've seen with some of the better-known volunteer efforts like Habitat for Humanity and the Peace Corps.
As times get tough and challenges mount, it's easy to lose sight of volunteerism and what it can do. But I think over the next few days we're going to hear a fair amount about service, as a coalition of service groups called ServiceNation hosts the first ServiceNation Summit here in New York tomorrow and Friday, Sept. 11 - 12.
This group seems to have come out of nowhere, but they're set to blast onto the national radar through what looks like some smart marketing and great organizing. Choosing Sept. 11 as the day to kick off their campaign is a brilliant move, as is convening a summit that's drawing a stellar cast of participants headlined by our presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. They will meet tomorrow evening at Columbia University for a discussion on service moderated by Time Magazine managing editor Richard Stengel and PBS NewsHour political correspondent Judy Woodruff. The candidates will will speak in depth about their views on the role of citizenship and service in post-9/11 America.
This will be a major media event, since tomorrow's forum is the first time the two candidates will be together since being officially nominated by their respective parties. The organizers seem to be covering all the bases including reaching out through social media.
Along with all the mainstream media, a number of bloggers and Twitterers have been invited. Thanks to Nedra Kline Weinreich, a few of us from the marketing blogosphere will be at the events tomorrow and Friday. Watch for posts over the next few days here and also at the blogs of CK, David Berkowitz and Alan Wolk and possibly also at MarketingProfs Daily Fix.
The program is not intended to be political. The ServiceNation Summit will bring together 600 leaders of all ages and from every sector of American life – from universities and foundations, to business and politics – to celebrate the power and potential of service, and lay out a bold policy blueprint for addressing challenges facing our society through expanded opportunities for volunteer and community national service. Ultimately, ServiceNation plans "to unite hundreds of thousands of citizens in a national campaign to call on the next President and Congress to enact a new era of voluntary service and civic engagement in America, an era in which all Americans will work together to try and solve our greatest and most persistent societal challenges."
It's a mighty challenge, for sure. But it's one worth answering.