As the nation celebrates the 80th birthday of Dr. King and welcomes the historic presidency of Barack Obama, we remember all the acts of change and sacrifice of those who have contributed to our national pilgrimage to a more perfect union. We remember the foot soldiers of the movements for social justice and we celebrate the every day heroes who combat malaria around the world, serve in our military, teach our children, and build homes for those without shelter. It is exciting to see the dream and vision that Coretta Scott King had for this national holiday come to real fruition in the embrace of President-Elect Obama -- to not just take the day off, but to truly "take the day on." To take the day on, to stand in solidarity with those that are hungry and homeless, to reach out to children who need tutoring, and to repair the homes of seniors so they can stay and live with dignity and independence. President-Elect Obama has invited us to honor Dr. King's legacy and to celebrate the promise of our nation through simple acts of service and change on this day.
The real opportunity for change will be measured in how the new President fulfills his inspiring promise to turn to the American people to tackle the critical issues of our day. From the environment, to economic opportunity, to education---he promised to put people at the center of change. The President Elect has already demonstrated the enormous power of the bully pulpit to call the nation to action. He should continue this beyond the Martin Luther King Day of service to create a campaign of citizen engagement to address specific tough problems. What could a million citizen leaders do to reduce our carbon footprint, to transform the 2,000 schools that produce half of our high school drop outs, to help our most financially vulnerable families?
The President should go further than simply issuing the call. As we look to the stimulus to grow jobs and repair our economy, we must strive not only to repair our physical infrastructure, but also to build our civic infrastructure. We must strengthen the human capital that makes up the volunteer force that fuels our nonprofits. At this time of economic fragility, our nonprofits are being stretched thinner than ever. The very safety net that ensures that we protect and nurture our children, steward our environment, and care for our Veterans needs to be supported. Just last week new legislation, the Serve America Act, was introduced by Senators Kennedy and Hatch that calls for and enables dramatic expansion of service opportunities of all Americans, including targeted focus on our nation's classrooms, a clean energy corps to restore our environment, and economic opportunity and public health. The President and Congress should move forward aggressively to pass this legislation which can be a significant help in repairing our fragile economy.
Finally, the President should look to social innovation to fundamentally change our approach to public policy and citizen engagement. His campaign proposals called for the creation of a new fund that would reward innovative solutions to problems, re-direct government resources from bureaucratic efforts, and re-invest with private sector partnerships in more nimble solutions created by grass-roots change agents in faith institutions and nonprofits across the country. For example, if we are going to invest billions of dollars in renovating our depleted school systems, why not ask our local school leadership to direct these resources and match them with sweat equity and community dollars? Not only does this help provide the much needed improvement to schools, but evidence suggests it's a powerful way to galvanize community involvement in the school in ways that impact school performance.
On this national day of service, we honor the skills and passions of volunteers who fuel our nation's democracy, defend our freedoms at home and abroad, strengthen our civic institutions and unite our communities. This most recent election reminded us that movements are fueled by moving feet, open hearts and willing hands. President Elect Obama's commitment to the service community is clear and forthright. Throughout the campaign, both he and Senator McCain embraced service as a rite of passage for responsible citizenship and as a critical strategy for advancing our nation's priorities. Their common ground reflects the opportunities before us.
A renewed national investment in citizen service will foster greater responsibility for the liberties and institutions we require for a free and vibrant society. We should encourage the new President to fulfill his promise to ask the Nation for greater accountability, collaboration and sacrifice. This is essential for America's future.