Landon Donovan Surprises Student Volunteers, Emphasizes Public Service

06/30/2010 12:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In one of his first public appearances since returning to the United States from South Africa Tuesday Morning, U.S. soccer player and now-household name Landon Donovan appeared at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service Teen Forum at MTV studios in Times Square, to speak to an audience full of socially-conscious youngsters about the value of giving back.

Young representatives from City Year and AmeriCorps were on hand for a performance from America's Best Dance Crew's Rhythm City, an introduction from The City's Whitney Port and a panel featuring former first daughter Barbara Bush, moderated by MTV personality Sway Calloway.

The evening was a love fest for the young volunteers, who were consistently praised for their commitment to service and making a difference in their local communities and around the world.

Bush, who acts as the president of Global Health Corps, discussed the importance of teamwork in establishing and promoting service projects.

"I love working with people," she said. "You work with people when you serve."

Ben Nemtin from MTV's The Buried Life concurred. "It started with fun. We never started this to make a TV show," he said of the service projects he and his friends perform as part of the show. "Do it with your friends that you have fun with."

After a brief presentation by Shell Oil Foundation Vice President Frazier Wilson (we all know how kids love oil companies), the crowd erupted at the surprise visit of Donovan, who spoke to the ability of anyone to get involved in public service, and to his appreciation of how soccer can inspire.

"I thought there was no better way to show [our team's] appreciation than to come speak to you guys," he said.

He opened it up for some questions, which quickly turned soccer-related. Donovan was asked by several shaky-legged kids to describe his big goal and how to make soccer a more popular sport in America. The goal, he said, elevated the importance of the sport in his mind.

"I used to think it was just a game," he said. "But, now I know it has the power to inspire."

When his career is over, Donovan says, he wants to work with kids in some way, and to still use soccer as a method to inspire positive change.

"I think we can all spare some money, some clothing, some food, some something. We all have a little excess of something -- you'd be surprised of how much that can help."


The National Conference on Volunteering and Service is an annual event that organizes service leaders from around the U.S. to discuss volunteering, nonprofits and the future of philanthropy in America. The conference is convened by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Points of Light Institute.

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