07/25/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Everyone Serves

It's time to retire the confetti and take take down the streamers. For too long we have talked about philanthropy in hushed tones. People laud the idea of service as if it were a black art practiced only by a few. Occasionally a Hollywood type will grace the public with some act of charity, often seemingly to burnish their image. Yet we need to avoid the "celebritization" of service and advocate a fundamental truth. It is a path that everyone can take. We have moved beyond the moment when service is a privilege undertaken by a few, and embrace a new reality -- today, everyone can serve.

Some do it in small, almost unnoticed ways -- recycling their waste, growing their own vegetables, caring for a sick neighbor, helping someone cross the street. Others work in public institutions, start a pet adoption program, adopt a patch of highway, join the military. Some will commit to a marathon or AIDS Ride, start-up new nonprofit organizations, open new charter schools, perhaps even launch a socially-responsible business.

But all these actions matter. Indeed, everyone serves -- at least, everyone must serve.

President Obama has called on the American people to launch volunteerism. In this new century, we need a new foundation for growth in America -- and this foundation will be built "one community at a time" as the President aptly reminds us.

Let's get past the false notion of doing good (or the unstated contrary) and embark on an era where service takes center stage in our public debate about the role of citizenry. Let's recognize all forms of service -- from reducing your carbon footprint to strengthening your communities to impacting a national or global cause. And let's stop talking about them as discretionary activities conducted on the margins in our free time. Instead, let's start talking about them as organizing principles that form the core of our common existence.

Pierre Omidyar, venture philanthropist and successful entrepreneur, once remarked, "When we talk about giving back as something we do at the end of our lives, does that mean that we have been taking away for the first half of our careers?" It's a fair question. We now need to move forward so that the question is not how are you giving back, but rather, how do you contribute your fair share to support the public interest. We also need to leverage all the talent and tools at our disposal to build this shared future of civility and values.

All for Good is one such example. Inspired by President Obama's call to service, it is a coalition effort of some of the leading technology firms in the world and some of the most effective non-profit organizations in the country. Built by the talented engineering team at Google with contributions from a range of companies, All for Good is a free, open-source application that allows Americans to search and share service opportunities. Everyone has something to contribute to their communities -- All for Good enables each and every American to serve in the way that is the easiest and most meaningful to them. At it's foundation, All for Good simply makes service opportunities accessible to all.

As we're faced with today's national crises, we need to start looking at how we can each contribute to make our nation, our communities a little stronger. Each of us -- no matter where we come from, no matter what our age, no matter what our income, no matter what! -- each of us can contribute our community and to the foundation of this nation. Everyone serves!

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