Celebrate Your American Citizenship This Independence Day
Today is a day for Americans to celebrate our freedom, to reflect upon the history of our nation and to honor the brave men and women who continue to protect our freedoms today. We recommitted to be good citizens at our National Conference on Volunteering and Service closing session earlier this June – join with us to be active and engaged citizens.
“At a time when so much divides us, service is common ground. It is a uniting force that can pull us together in common cause and in pursuit of the ideals upon which this nation was founded and towards which we, as citizens, continue to strive.
During our closing plenary, we are going to think about citizenship -- how to re-imagine our work in terms of citizen engagement and the arts of democracy. We are going to hear from change agents who represent the worlds of government, journalism, nonprofit, and faith. They are going to help us re-cast our work so that we don’t think about what we do as just managing volunteers, but as engaging volunteers as global citizens willing to pitch in for one another and for the common good.
We will hear from Eric Lieu, who will issue a call for a new kind of citizenship. We will hear from Laura Ling about the power of journalism to equip citizens, and her personal story of freedom lost and found.
We will hear from Mark Shriver, who carries forward the legacy of one of our nation's greatest citizens, his father, Sargent Shriver. Sargent Shriver was an amazing civic hero whose greatness was matched by his goodness. And we will hear from Reverend Otis Moss, who can help us understand our individual responsibilities to advance social justice across our faith traditions. We will conclude with a ritual to remind us of the true power and potential we hold as citizens.
Today, America’s story is dominated by the pursuit of individual happiness, largely defined by the accumulation of stuff. But you and I know that the real story of America is much more about citizenship defined by responsibility, sacrifice, and the pursuit of the common good. If there is one singular force in American history that explains our nation’s greatness, it is the unyielding work of individuals driven by idealism and compassion.
The enduring heroes of our nation have been the citizens who called upon us all to align our reality with our ideals. The abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage, the environmental movement and the civil rights movement have all been powered by ordinary people who banded together to create change. Frederick Douglas, Clara Barton, Martin Luther King Jr., and Dorothy Day. They, even more than our capitalist icons, are the enduring heroes of our country -- the ones who created turning points in our history.
Our work is a part of that historical march, and today we will be reminded that despite a culture dominated by materialism and celebrity, ours is the vital work of our time. We create the opportunity to participate in something larger than ourselves, to be a part of the historical arc of justice.
At a time when we all too often look to the experts to discover the answers, what we really need are millions of amateurs. Perhaps we need fewer programs and more people. More amateurs -- ordinary citizens -- who will take up the mantle to solve problems, to discover answers, to plunge in, to participate.
I hope that today's session and our time together over these last few days helps you place yourself in this vital movement and reinvigorates your commitment to the sacred work of engaging citizens and pursuing the good.”