01/21/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Supports Mentoring Campaign

During the transition in 1992, I worked with then President-elect Bill Clinton to videotape a PSA promoting the use of designated drivers. Rahm Emanuel helped make it happen. The PSA was taped in Little Rock, and ran on all the networks in the lead-up to New Year's Eve. Clinton continued to promote the use of designated drivers throughout his Presidency, taping a new PSA each year, continuing a tradition begun by his predecessor.

This year, I set out to work with President-elect Barack Obama, this time on an ad aimed at recruiting volunteer mentors for at-risk youth that would run throughout January in support of National Mentoring Month. I reached out to the Obama team through Alan Khazei, co-founder and former CEO of City Year, who now is helping to spearhead Service Nation, an umbrella organization that will be a driving force promoting volunteer service in the years ahead. And Arianna also helped make it happen, with an introduction to Mike Lux, who is handling liaison with progressive groups for the transition.

Obama's staff approved our print ad, which will premiere in the January 12 issue of Newsweek. Its message is "Be the Change: Mentor a Child", and it features an image of the President-elect delivering his July 2, 2008 speech on service (in Colorado Springs) along with this excerpt from that speech:

"We need your service, right now, in this moment - our moment - in history. I'm not going to tell you what your role should be; that's for you to discover. But I am going to ask you to play your part; ask you to stand up; ask you to put your foot firmly into the current of history."

All signs point to a serious, concerted effort by Obama to make service one of the defining themes of his Presidency, with mentoring as one leading example.

Since 1997, the Harvard School of Public Health's Center for Health Communication has joined with MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and Big Brothers Big Sisters to promote mentoring as a proven public health intervention for preventing adolescent drug abuse and youth violence, and helping young people achieve their full potential. Our mentoring campaign has had the strong support of President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Edward Kennedy, Senator John McCain, and General Colin Powell.

So, don't forget: January is National Mentoring Month. Be the change: Mentor a Child!