Change Notes: Even in Divisive Times, Service and Volunteering Bring Us Together as One America
At Points of Light's Conference on Volunteering and Service in Washington, D.C., yesterday, the crowd of 5,000 saw something you don't see every day. And it wasn't just right-leaning strategist Karl Rove dancing on stage with left-leaning strategist Donna Brazile.
In the heart of our nation's capital, Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, corporate executives and grassroots organizers got together to agree on one thing: Despite our differences, we can make a difference together.
It's all part of the launch of One America, a nationwide, yearlong campaign Points of Light is leading, with founding support from JPMorgan Chase, to bring together rivals in politics, entertainment and sports with the goal of inspiring millions to unite in service to their communities.
Unlikely allies on stage included conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly and liberal political strategist Donna Brazile, plus former adviser to President George W. Bush Karl Rove and former adviser to President Obama David Plouffe.
Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett was on hand to announce that President and Mrs. Obama will host a special White House ceremony in July to honor the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award — a volunteer recognition program begun by President George H. W. Bush in 1993.
At the close of the session, rival marching bands from D.C.'s Eastern and Duke Ellington high schools led thousands of delegates to a cavernous room where they assembled 100,000 mac-and-cheese kits for those in need in the nation's capital.
At the historic Sewall-Belmont House & Museum on Capitol Hill, 200 volunteer leaders assembled 600 school supply kits for area children. During the service project, sponsored by Altria, volunteers were joined by several members of Congress, including Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI).
Summing up the spirit of One America, Peter Scher, executive vice president and head of corporate social responsibility at Chase, recalled the words of Abraham Lincoln: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." In today's world, Scher said, "We know that what really matters to our nation's future is not what divides us, but what brings us together. And what brings us together here today is what brings us together in neighborhoods across the country – service."
So which unlikely allies would you like to see unite in service? Tom and Jerry?
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson? Kanye West and Taylor Swift? Visit www.one-america.org and let us know. We'll collect the best pairings and let you vote on which ones we'll ask to come together to serve.
We may live in divisive times, but service unites.
CEO, Points of Light