January 15, 2009

100 Days of Service

Since I have the privilege of traveling soon to Washington, D.C. to take part in the inauguration of Barack Obama, our 44th President, I have been thinking about the event, its place in history and how a new administration starts with peace (as in the orderly transition of power) and promise by taking an oath of office.

On January 20
th when a new president takes the oath by repeating these words required by Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," the first 100 days of a new administration starts.

We've been told that it is important to make a good first impression. This is especially true when you start a new job. It is especially critical for a new president.

Everyone - academics, citizens, media folks, world leaders and politicians want to get to know their new leader - they want to know something about his personality, ideas, habits and the way the new leader deals Congress, crises and the issues that arise. They want to measure him against his campaign promises and they wait to see if the President can get things done. As such, those first 100 days can set the tone for the rest of a president's term.

(Interestingly it was the nation's 32
nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who started the "100 days" tradition when he was inaugurated in 1933).

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100 days of service would have a significant impact on the lives of people

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Obviously the first 100 days of a new president is important. It is a "special time." And what better time could there be for the new President to call the nation to action?

That is why I propose that our new President call on the people of this nation to join him in 100 days of service - to engage in service oriented activities for their community, state and nation. Examples of projects might be cleaning a beach, reading to a young person, sharing an old coat with a homeless shelter. There are countless ways in which individual citizens could be "of service."

Next, I would propose that the new president create an office in the White House designated as Director of Civic Engagement. This person's responsibility would be to reach out to the nation's communities and spread the idea of regular people working to serve others. In addition, I would suggest that each community sponsor a "100 Days of Service" Conference. Interested citizens and leaders could come together to talk about issues like civic engagement and how to make a difference.

Imagine the power of those conversations.

Rotarian's have a motto - "Service Above Self." And that spirit represents the idea behind the 100 days of service. The new President has a unique opportunity to call the nation together for action and just like Kennedy did with the U.S. space program - President Obama could mobilize the hearts, minds and energies of a nation to do exactly the same - make a significant difference in the lives of people.

"Yes we can."

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