Champions of Change: Following in the Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Uploaded by whitehouse on 12.01.2012

Transcript:
Erin Hannigan: Good afternoon.
Welcome to the White House.
For those of you viewing on line, welcome.
My name is Erin Hannigan, and I work here in the Office of
Public Engagement at the White House.
And I wanted to be the first one to welcome you all.
And especially thank our Champions of Change who
are here -- who we are here to honor today.
You want to give them a round of applause before we get started.
(applause)
We are looking forward to a great event with our champions
here today.
And I would encourage everyone to learn more about their
stories by going to www.WhiteHouse.gov/champions.
Now, before we begin our discussions with our champions,
we have some special guests.
First is my colleague here in the Office Of Public Engagement,
Heather Foster.
Heather?
(applause)
Heather Foster: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the White House.
This is a wonderful event that we have here today,
to highlight people doing fantastic work in the community.
These are champs that were nominated by a host of people
locally here in D.C. and then across the country as folks that
are identified to do great work.
And today in honor of the Martin Luther King Holiday that is
quickly approaching us this next Monday,
we selected eight individuals who are doing great work in
their community around economic -- providing economic
development opportunities for people and also just bringing
great community service to the community.
So I want to take the time out today to just really talk about
how we look at the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
My job here at the White House is as the Associate
Director in the Office of Public Engagement,
is to do outreach to the African American community.
We do a host full of events all of the time.
And that is why today is a fantastic opportunity in terms
of the fact that we are doing our Champions Of Change
connected with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
So I want to thank you all for coming here today.
Traveling here.
And I want to thank you all here in the audience for taking time
out of your schedule to really honor these individuals.
The life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is something so
important to remember.
He was his own champion of change.
He had a vision, he created it, he dreamed about it.
And then he actually took to the streets.
Martin Luther King, Jr. to me a lot of times was just the I
guess would say the embodiment of a servant.
And he had his message and he had his dream.
I think all of the people on the stage, they are also servants.
They go into the community, they see what is needed,
and they work to build a greater community.
And that is what Dr. King dreamed about.
So I want to thank you again for coming out.
I am going to take the opportunity now to introduce
Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to
Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Mr. Michael Strautmanis.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: Thank you, Heather.
Isn't Heather doing a great job?
Let's give her another round of applause.
(applause)
One of the great things about having done this work on behalf
of the President since he began his public career,
working for him in the U.S. Senate,
working on a few campaigns.
And having the privilege of working here at the White House
as I have been able to be a part of something very special.
There are many pieces to it, but one of them is that there
is really a generation of Americans who have stepped
forward to serve their country in so many different ways.
I have had a chance to work with so many of them here at
the White House.
I am incredibly proud of them and you should be too.
They are operating and working in the high -- in the best
spirit of public service consistent with all of those
who have come before us.
And all of you who are doing your own part, your own work,
have done it in some cases before we got here,
will be doing it I believe after our time here is over.
We are partners.
Us and the Federal Government and the White House,
you and your community.
And so being a partner, I know how much work you have
on your plate.
I know how hard it is.
There is a lot of need out there.
And those who are trying to serve others,
have a full-time job in today's economy and
in today's environment.
And so I really want to thank you first of all for taking the
time out of your schedule to come here and join us.
It means a lot to have you here.
This is a very special event for all of us,
a very special occasion for all of us.
So I am going to when we are done here,
I am going to run across the street and go and tell the
President all about today, all about these Champions of Change,
and he will be proud.
He will be proud first of all because this is what
we should be doing.
As for those of you who saw him speak on the mall recently at
the dedication of the new memorial to Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr., you saw and heard in the President's voice and in his
words how he is really trying to do everything he can in his
ability with the great privilege that he has been given to lead
this country, to follow in the footsteps and to continue to
create the beloved community that Dr. ing set forth for all
of us as a standard.
And so he is going to be excited about that.
But he is also going to be excited that we are
focusing on people who are working in our community.
Every single day.
You know, that is how he got started in public service.
On the south side of Chicago working with churches and
community organizations trying to help people.
So I am really thrilled to be able to have this opportunity.
So now I want to take the spotlight off of those in public
office and I want to put the spotlight on those champions
who have joined us here today.
I am going to just let you know who is in front of you.
They are -- I am going to take a little time to do this,
but I -- I just want -- I want you all to know the work that
these folks have done.
James Bailey.
James Bailey serves as the market Vice President for the
Southeast Region of Operation Hope,
a global nonprofit public benefit organization.
It is also this country's leading provider of economic
tools, services, and financial dignity for the underserved.
Todd Bernstein.
Todd is the President of Global Citizen.
And the founder and director of the Greater Philadelphia Martin
Luther King Day Of Service, which is largest King Day event
in the nation.
Next week more than 85,000 volunteers, whew,
will serve in some 1,300 projects in
the Philadelphia area.
David Brown.
David Brown is the Vice President of United Health Care.
I hope you guys are smiling or raising your hands or something
when I talk about you.
And has been a minority business owner for 20 years,
where he has employed dozens of individuals from under
representative communities and provided internships to students
of color, and made contracting opportunities available to other
disadvantaged businesses.
Edwin Fizer.
Edwin has been a senior companion with the Suburban
Cook County Senior Companion Program for over three years
where he helps with the needs of the frail elderly.
Mr. Fizer, am I getting that name right?
Edwin Fizer: Yes.
Michael Strautmanis: All right.
Mr. Fizer also serves on the Senior Citizen Board in Park
Forest, Illinois, and the Montford Point Marines
Advisory Board.
Givanni Eugene Ford?
Am I good?
Givanni Ford: Givanni.
Michael Strausmanis: Givanni.
Givanni Eugene Ford.
You have got to like Strautmanis.
You would think you'd pay attention to names, right?
Givanni Eugene Ford has worked in the field of early childhood
care and education for the past 28 years and is currently the
founder and Executive Director of the network for the
development of children of African descent.
A nonprofit family education center focused on education and
community revitalization in communities of African descent.
Stephen Powell, the Executive Director at Mentoring USA where
he is focused on Program Expansion and Technical
Assistance efforts for Mentoring Programs across the nation in
many major cities.
Maureen Roche.
Serves as the Director of the Campus Kitchens Project which in
the last ten years has recovered more than two million pounds of
food, engaged 45,000 student volunteers and reinvested in --
reinvested millions into the communities where they served.
And Rachel Turner.
Rachel is the Outreach and Programs Manager at Global
Citizen where she manages the outreach and registration
process for the thousands of volunteers who work on the King
Day of Service Event.
She is also an alum of the AmeriCorps Program.
Let's give our champions a round of applause.
(applause)
So we are going to get started.
Let's get started with our panel.
Let's get into this discussion and have this conversation.
You guys have to scoot over a bit.
Give me some room here.
I am a big guy.
I have lost a little weight.
The First Lady has mentioned it to me, believe me.
But I haven't lost that much.
Givanni?
Givanni Ford: Givanni.
Michael Strautmanis: Givanni.
You know, I just have to say before we get into our
panel, you know sometimes we work here at the White House,
you get a little bit caught up in the day to day.
And it is really moments like this which really gives me an
opportunity to remember why I am here.
Why I got into this work in th first place.
The values that were passed onto me by those who raised me.
And so I just want to thank those of you who took the time
to come and join us today.
You know, in so many ways, you are giving so much more to us
in this event than we could ever get from you -- give you.
So thank you.
Givanni, you focused your career on education and early childhood
care including the founding of your nonprofit.
Expand a little bit for us on why you created your
organization, and frankly how you have been able to
make it so successful.
How does Dr. King's legacy really guide you in the work
that you do every day?
Givanni Ford: Well, first let me just say what an honor.
I am full, my heart is full.
It is such an honor to be here.
Representing and receiving this recognition on behalf
of so many, Dr. King, W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Asa Hilliard.
Our organization, the vision for our organization,
really is a combination of a whole -- whole host of folks
that came together over years to have conversations about what
our children need, and what is our role in the education and
socialization of African children.
The community as I said over years said, you know,
we need to commit ourselves to really examining how do we build
an institution where we can provide a cultural education
for our children, recognizing that our children's cultural
education provides the foundation for their academic
success and life-long learning.
And so this vision really didn't come from me.
I am a servant.
My role has been to hold on to the community vision to remind
us the vision that we articulated and to keep us
moving in the right direction.
So again, I am just honored to be here.
We have learned so much about how to support our children and
families in their cultural education
and their academic success.
Much of our work focuses on literacy and the development
of literacy skills for children and families.
And through our various programs we have continued to see that
our children stepped to the plate.
And they understand that reading is about knowledge itself.
Then they self motivate to master the academic skills and
that shows up with -- shows up in all areas of their lives.
So again I am just so honored to be here on behalf of so many
that came before me and those that are involved in this work.
Michael Strautmanis: Well, let's pick up on that thread.
Talking about the way you have sort of reached out to reach and
touch people in your community.
And David, I am going to expand a little bit on your roles.
You wear about eight hats in Philly.
So I am going to talk about them.
One, you are a business owner.
Two, you are the general manager for only Pennsylvania's black
owned radio station.
I have actually been on that station.
You are a pastor in the United Methodist church.
You are now a top executive with the health care company.
One of the things you have been able to do with all of those
hats on from that perch is you have really been able to reach
out and connect with those in the community who are under
served and under represented.
Bring their voices into those different discussions.
A lot of people try to do that, but aren't always successful at
actually connecting and reaching people in the community.
Tell us how you have been able to do that and give us some
advice; give us some advice on those who want to do the same.
David Brown: Well, I think and again I have shared
identities with Givanni.
Michael Strautmanis: Givanni.
David Brown: Givanni. Because I said before I share your sentiment about being
honored to be here.
And I think that I can probably sum it up best,
when someone told me that no voice is distinctive
until it is heard.
And I think that somehow we have got to find ways to get those
voices that aren't heard out.
Whether it is through education of self,
being able to know who you are and being able to have that
level of articulation.
But also to be able to articulate those needs,
and fill some of those needs.
So whether it is being a pastor or running a radio station,
or working in health care, running an ad agency,
I see them all converging around communications.
Being able to communicate, being able to put things forth.
And I see one thing that Dr. King I think was masterful
around is being able to capture that message and get it out and
motivate people.
I think a lot of times there are a lot of people who suffer in
silence and who may never get the opportunity to articulate
what is going on in their lives.
And I think that I would call myself a serial entrepreneur.
I am always trying to do something.
And I think all of us, folks you will hear from this morning and
this afternoon, you find a need and you go fill it.
Not because you are being opportunistic in terms of
your path.
But you see something that you can give to it.
And if you can give something to it,
then you almost have an obligation to be able to
fulfill that.
And I think a lot of times particularly a lot of people
that we work with in the community who may not think
they have the ability to fulfill that need,
kind of serve in the victim role as opposed to being a Victor.
And I think that a lot of times we have to find tools to make
sure that they are able to do that.
Whether it is a radio station, whether that is through their
faith, certainly through their jobs.
And particularly as United Health Care,
through their health.
If you don't have your health, you don't have anything.
And being able to recognize that that health enables you to have
a strength of voice.
So One without the other is really a disconnect.
And I think that that is part of what we must be able to do
in terms of fulfilling Dr. King's mission and vision,
for being able to have the voice that goes unheard,
but being able to give strength to that voice.
Michael Strautmanis: That is good advice particularly from
someone who has been so successful as you have in
executing on that vision.
I appreciate that.
I want to change gears briefly because I want
to lift up something.
You know, one of the reasons I am here is I found a mentor
early on in life, when I was trying to figure out what I
was going to do as a career.
I talked my way into a job at a law firm in Chicago and met
a young lawyer named Michelle Robinson,
who introduced me to her husband,
this guy who became President of the United States.
Her fiancé at the time actually.
And I work every day with Valerie Jarrett who served as a mentor
to the First Lady and the President as well at different
stages of their lives.
So I wouldn't be here if it weren't for mentors.
Mentoring is such an important part of people's experience.
When you are talking about really reaching out and making
sure that we are successful as a community,
mentoring is a huge part of it.
So, Stephen, you are the Executive Director of Mentoring
USA, so you -- you help others develop mentoring programs every
single day.
Explain to us a little bit from your vision about how
important mentoring is.
And really explain, I use this phrase over and over again.
I get it from the President because he talks about it in
meetings, in the spotlight, and when no one -- you know,
when the spotlight is not there about the beloved community.
Explain to us about mentoring and how it can help create
Dr. King's vision of that community.
Stephen Powell: Okay. Well, first, I just want to thank the White House for
this very esteemed honor.
When I think about mentoring and my commitment to this,
I really can't look at it as just being executive director
of Mentoring USA.
I actually look at mentoring as my ministry.
When you think about the way that Martin Luther King
operated, he operated from a stand point of faith.
You know, this morning as I was thinking about this tremendous
opportunity, I actually went down to the King Memorial
just to reflect.
And there were certain words that just jumped out to me.
The measurement of a man, so taking this moment and looking
on this stage, African American men aligned who committed
themselves to community.
The other words that jumped out to me were,
make a career in humanity.
What does that really mean to make a career in humanity?
The beauty of Dr. Martin Luther King was the fact that
where ever he put his feet, that became his community.
Mentoring is really a new terminology.
When I think back to my life, lost my father at the age of
five, I was raised by a single mother,
but the people who stood up to me or stood up for me never
called themselves mentors.
They just did what they were supposed to do.
And so my job is to simply inspire.
You know, we partner with schools, corporations,
community centers, faith based institutions.
The faith based institution is so critical in this work.
Where corporations have been so incredibly supportive
of our work.
We have to be able to train those that are entrenched in
the community to make mentoring embedded into
the fabric of our society.
That we don't even look at it as mentoring.
Because when you just look at it as mentoring,
when the funding goes, the program goes and
children are hurt.
So understanding that and understanding that communities
are hurting, we have to understand that the work
that we are doing is a part of a healing process.
The spirit of collaboration is all about this work.
We cannot do anything alone.
So trust in collaboration, allowing faith to drive you.
I am simply a vessel.
If I allow God to move, I don't ask him how and why,
I ask him when and where.
Michael Strautmanis: I appreciate that.
You know, some of these comments,
I just feel like we should just end it right there.
You know, just I appreciate everybody coming today.
Thank you very much.
So thank you for -- thank you for offering that spirit and
putting that spirit into our work here today.
I am going to just shift gears again.
Because there is really not much more that can be said
about mentoring than that.
I want to talk a little bit about providing economic
opportunity for everyone.
There is obviously a role there for the federal government and
it is something that we have attempted at least in our --
in our way to fill that role.
But James is at the Market Vice President
at Operation Hope.
And frankly this is an organization through James
and his leadership, and the rest of the members there that have
done amazing jobs in creating real opportunities for those
who are underserved and economic opportunities.
So James, talk a little bit about how your -- tell us
about the programs.
Just give us a little bit of information session about the
programs that are offered by -- by Operation Hope.
Because they create -- they provide such a crucial service
to the communities in which you serve.
Just inform us a little bit about the programs that are
out there so that we can know what to plug in into.
James Bailey: Sure. Of course, you guys are amazing so this is great.
If we look at Dr. King's legacy and his last great battle before
he was assassinated, he waged a poor people's war.
Operation Hope, we have been around for 20 years,
we served over 1.5 million people,
we operate in 52 countries all over the world.
But our key motivation is financial dignity and
economic empowerment.
If we are looking at over 40 years ago,
Dr. King recognized there was a problem.
There was disparity with economics.
There was a disparity with housing.
But some startling statistics even if you look at today.
There is 17 million individuals without a checking account.
Of that, there are 22% of black households in America
don't have bank accounts.
21.3% of Latino households and this is in 2011.
And if individuals don't have the basic access to the most
basic economic tools and services,
essentially we are looking at another stage of what we could
consider economic slavery.
So with Operation Hope we work daily.
We have over 16,000 volunteers in the US alone providing
services like home ownership.
We are looking at fixing credit scores.
If you want to start a business, how do you go from zero from a
business dreamer to a business owner?
And we provide all of our services for free.
And with that, it is -- we have shifted from the term financial
literacy to financial dignity.
Because what does financial literacy mean to anyone?
But that feeling from a single mother of two when she went
from no hope to owning her first home.
And from owning her first home to being a stakeholder
in the community.
Now she is a better parent at school.
She feels empowered.
That is not just about the mortgage that she acquired,
that is about a feeling of dignity that has been
instilled in her.
And that is why we have made the switch.
Our work is to ensure the communities;
we reinsert dignity into these communities through
economic empowerment.
Financial literacy is the tool, dignity is the goal.
Michael Strautmanis: I appreciate that.
Stephen, you offered a little bit of your personal story which
I thought was very compelling.
And I think you know sometimes through personal stories,
through narratives, you know, we can make a little bit more of a
personal connection and people can see that pathway for
themselves and in the work that you have all done.
So, David, I am going to put you on the spot.
Because I get to do that.
Because I am the moderator.
When you think about -- when you thought about Dr. King's legacy,
you being selected as a Champion of Change,
tell us about any of your -- what personal experiences come
to mind that really lead you and motivated you through your
career really of service?
David Brown: Well, I thank you for that question.
I know exactly.
I can remember the night that it happened.
I was a survivor of a drive-by that didn't go,
that the person intended.
I happened to be sitting, not standing on a street corner with
a bunch of my friends just hanging out and not doing much.
And something happened that someone thought that I had done.
And it was -- it turned out that it was -- I was not the
intended target.
But I would have been the victim and it scared me right
off the streets.
I will never forget it.
I had came from a very stable home and was just not doing
anything wrong but just being in the wrong place
at the wrong time.
And I thought I did not want to be a statistic.
And there are so many young people,
particularly young black men and boys who are out there who have
such talent and such creativity.
That motivated me to get off the streets to return to my writing.
That is what I used to always love to write.
And I realized that God had a bigger purpose for me.
And that has motivated me since I was a teenager.
And I think that unfortunately we don't always affirm some of
the creativity in some of our communities.
We just need to give them a shot,
give them a chance to be able to have that
creativity manifest itself.
And find pathways.
You heard that theme, whether it is a mentor,
whether it is an economic opportunity,
whether it is being able to know who you are in terms of
your culture, myself in terms of faith and their health.
Sometimes that is all it takes.
Once you get that motivation, and I am so glad that God had
a bigger plan.
He needed me to be on that street corner at that time
so that drive-by could go that wrong so I can do right.
(laughter)
Michael Strautmanis: That was a great story. I am glad I asked.
Givanni, give us some tips for success.
You know, you've been able to, you know,
chart a path that not many have chartered, founded a nonprofit,
a successful nonprofit, which is, you know,
something -- not something to sneeze at in this environment
that we're in.
Serving a need.
Give us some tips for success.
How did you do it and what kind of lessons did you learn through
that process that you could pass on to others that want to serve
in an institutional capacity the same as you have?
Givanni Ford: Well, a couple of key lessons.
The first of which is to honor our elders,
those who have so much wisdom, who have been down the pathways,
who have forged the pathways, who have started and have
continued the work.
So a lot of our success, the reason that we're still here is
we developed very close working relationships with elders in our
community, who have provided the counsel,
who have really provided my overall education.
Because in the work that we do, there are certainly policy
implications, whether we're talking about education or
child welfare, across the modalities, many policies.
But our elders, they know that terrain, unlike I do, right.
My background is child care, early childhood,
child development.
I know how to work with children.
Had it not been for the elders who understand the context that
we live in, my education would have fallen short.
So connection with elders and tapping that knowledge
has been critical.
The second kind of key learning is to not be discouraged when
our people don't look like we're engaged, right.
So I can recount numerous trainings,
workshops that we've done, parent engagement activities,
and the one or two showed up when 100
said they were coming, right.
And I've worked with my staff over time to help
them understand something that my father and elders
have taught me.
Don't look at the numbers.
Those who are meant to be there will be there for the ordained
purpose of being there.
And so we have learned that it is a part of our responsibility
to keep creating opportunities for our people to be engaged in
the work of community building, to keep creating opportunities
for parents to be engaged in the cultural education of their
children, and the academic success of their children.
So those are two of the key lessons.
The elders and this keep on keeping on,
and don't look at the numbers.
My father used to say don't look at the faces, right.
Don't look at the faces.
Faces sometimes will take you down the wrong path.
But follow your spirit and follow truth.
Do what is right.
Michael Strautmanis: Well, you know that really -- that leads me to another
question that I want to send to James.
In order to keep that doggedness,
sometimes motivation is a factor.
People are motivated by a lot of things.
Obviously people are motivated by economic opportunity.
But sometimes in this work when you're serving,
the economic opportunity isn't there for yourself.
Sometimes, as you just spoke about,
there can be a lot of perceived failure from your own
perception, but also from the perception of others who may not
understand why you're doing what you're doing.
People who could be in your life who you would want to normally
look to as a support network don't really understand why
you're fighting the battle that you're fighting,
serving in the way that you're serving.
James, tell us what's motivated you.
What's kept you strong?
Give us some perspective, because I know others here
might be in the same position, either now or if they aren't,
they will find themselves in the same position someday as long as
they keep on staying on this side.
James Bailey: Sure.
I guess there are three things that come to mind.
One is a saying that the people say all the time,
that success is measured by going from failure to failure
without losing enthusiasm.
(laughter)
And there's a stick-to-it-iveness that people that lead, that they share.
I think that one of the things that motivates me most is I have
an incredible foundation.
You know, I can look in the audience and I see part of
it out there.
It's family. It's rooted.
But also, loss breeds leaders, in my opinion.
And I steal that from one of my mentors, John Hope Brian,
the founder of my organization.
But it's one's ability to mitigate pain and manage pain.
So if you think about the people who change the world,
nobody opens a cancer center just because.
It's because their life has been impacted by cancer.
And that's at the root of their motivation.
Nobody opens an AIDS clinic just because it's the right
thing to do.
Their life has been impacted and affected by AIDS.
I think in my story, in my life story,
I've seen enough loss and I've seen enough -- managed enough
pain to where I want to go out every day to ensure that
people's lives are better.
And I think that the internal motivation
comes from your life story.
And if you haven't had that opportunity to truly manage
pain, you can't go forward.
You can't go forward with passion.
Because there has to be a root to that where you say I'll never
go back there again.
As you talked about that drive-by, that was enough.
When those hot bullets were passing by your head, you said,
you know what, I managed enough pain here, let me move beyond.
Michael Strautmanis: I appreciate that.
You know, I think all of us would love to have any one
of the people up here on stage as a mentor.
And, you know, I think all of us have had opportunities in
our lives to mentor others.
But some of us, you know, mentoring is one of those
things that in my experience, everyone thinks it's intuitive,
but there may be like a lot of things that seem intuitive.
There may be a right way to do it,
and a way to do it towards being successful.
And there may be some things that may seem intuitive that
may not be the most positive or impactful way to go about it.
Why don't you give us some advice on being a mentor?
If we want to go out and step into that,
what are ways that we can do that and be successful?
Everybody's busier than they ever were;
everybody's got more on them than they ever did.
Give us some pathways to success in mentorship.
Steven Powell: Sure. I think one of the first things is to manage
your own expectation.
A lot of times mentors come into an organization with a
cape thinking they're going to change someone.
And sometimes change takes time.
What I can recall from the mentors who were very valuable
in my life, there were three very important things that I
was told: Have a goal, keep the right company that's going to be
able to impact that goal, and to be very mindful of
your consequences to our actions.
When you think about those three things,
they affect every single level of your life,
whether you're in elementary school, high school, college,
the workplace.
Most of our young people don't have a goal.
There's no one showing them what they can or cannot become.
If you have a person showing you where you can go and then
you now have the support of structure to get you
to that point.
When I think about the framework of our program,
we focus on financial literacy, healthy lifestyles and
self-esteem, diversity and tolerance, bully-ism,
media literacy.
All of these things are not only impactful on the child,
but they also impact the family.
It's one thing to tell a child, okay, you know what;
we want you to eat healthy.
But who is purchasing the food?
Mentoring starts in the home.
I mean, that's really the lesson, you know.
Being an active listener, being patient,
understanding that it's not about, you know,
and I can be very honest.
I can think about some of my friends,
they're very unhappy in their careers because they're not
living their own dreams.
They're living their parents' dreams.
You have to figure out what a child wants to become and then
be the wind beneath their wings.
That's essentially what a mentor is.
You are a positive opportunity broker.
And when I think about young men in certain communities that are
struggling, they're struggling because we're just not present,
you know.
So essentially across the landscape of America,
we're losing the recruitment war.
Because kids are being mentored, they're just
being mentored negatively.
Michael Strautmanis: I appreciate that.
You know, one of the lessons that has been really pressed
upon me, and it's obvious when you think about the legacy and
the work of Dr. King, is the role of the faith community.
You know, you think about all the issues that we're working
on here in the federal government, the issues
that Steven just ran through.
But, you know, whether it's education, health care,
economic opportunity and the like, there's so many of them.
There are things that the federal government
can't do alone.
And there are cultural things that you just spoke of, as well,
that frankly the federal government can do very
little to impact.
And one of the things that we've wanted to do is to partner with
the nonprofit community and partner with the faith-based
community in order to make sure that we're
having maximum impact.
David, you're a minister, you're a pastor.
Tell us how you think, from your perspective,
our faith-based institutions can effectively partner with
all sectors, the business sector, the nonprofit sector,
and the public sector, to make an impact on service and make
an impact on creating the beloved community that we are
speaking so much about today.
David Brown: Absolutely.
I think that one key is making the church relevant again.
I think there are so many churches.
At one time, I mean, I know when I was growing up,
church was the center of my life,
my community and everything else.
A lot of things happened there, moved there, and so forth.
But even some of the kids that we've all been talking about,
Steven just alluded to it, they have a different reality.
We're talking about generations of kids who don't, you know,
don't have a real faith direction in their lives.
And I think that to your point, Michael,
I think that being able to have the faith-based community is
learning its new reality.
And it doesn't happen overnight.
I think the church of 2012 is different from the church of the
1960s, '70s, and probably '80s.
And it's going to take one church at a time.
I'm so blessed to work in a church.
My church is in west Philadelphia,
it's a tough part of town.
But we're learning how to be more relevant in our community.
Too often we have churches that the folks who are there,
came there, parked there, but go -- they live somewhere else.
And they have a sanctuary, but it's more of a club as opposed
to an active catalyst, you know.
And I think that part of what has to happen, and, again,
I'm blessed to be one of those pastors who works both outside
the community and inside the community,
because one without the other is really not going to have
the right connection.
So to answer your question, I think the way that the
faith-based community can remain engaged is that it has to become
and always be a dynamic institution.
It has to always remain relevant.
It has to think beyond its walls,
be able to have a point of engagement so that it steps
into the breach, as it has always traditionally done,
but does so with the kind of resources that remain authentic,
remain -- have the integrity that's true to its mission,
while at the same time using a lot of other things that are
part of God's canvas to move people to where they need to be.
Church alone can't do it.
It's got to be integrated into a broader fabric in
order to be effective.
Michael Strautmanis: Well, that's terrific.
With my last question, I want to just go straight
to Dr. King's legacy.
You know, being involved in politics,
I hear a lot of people speaking about it.
It's used in advertising.
It's used in a whole lot of different sectors.
But Givanni, you're on the ground,
and I just would love to hear you speak to your perspective on
what Dr. King's legacy is, what you think we -- the lesson that
we need to take from it, and how we need to apply that to
our own lives.
I know you're a humble man and not one that, you know,
will go on and pontificate.
But I'm going to ask you to just give us your perspective,
because I think it's something that we can learn from.
Givanni Ford: The one word that I'm very present to is "dream."
And I'm concerned that many of our children and many of us
adults aren't clear about what it means to dream.
It's as if we go through life doing our thing,
whatever our thing is.
But what is the possibility for our greatest reason for being
and waking up in the morning.
Our children, I think are losing the ability to dream,
because I think many of us adults as parents,
as grandparents, as aunts, as uncles, we're not dreaming.
And so when I think about dreams,
and what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., put before all of us,
is to dream.
We were all put here on this planet for a reason, right.
But if we can't see it, if we can't envision it,
a better individual, a better collective,
we will never get there.
And our children certainly won't get there.
So again, what I'm most present to is this.
The power of dream, right, and it's the greatest gift,
I believe, that we can give our children.
If our children don't know that they are incredibly,
divinely created, nothing missing, nothing broken, right.
Many of our children are receiving the opposite message,
that they are broken, coming from broken homes.
It's all in perspective, right.
If I see myself as broken, less than,
I've got a big hill to climb.
But if I see myself as whole, complete, divinely created,
the opportunities presented as challenges are just that,
opportunities for me to see and manifest that which is
already in me.
So dream. Dream. Dream.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: I think I will end it there.
This was a terrific panel.
The -- you know, it was comforting and I'm excited
that it was recognized, because I often don't recognize it when
I participate in it that you have a couple -- you have a
bunch of men up here talking about this.
But I have to say, working for Valerie Jarrett and being a
mentee of the First Lady, I'm a little uncomfortable that we
haven't had women involved in this discussion.
Luckily panel two does.
(laughter)
So let's give our panelists on panel
one another round of applause.
(applause)
Let's get the second panel up here,
and I really appreciate everybody joining us at
the White House today.
Thank you.
Erin Hannigan: We're just going to get repositioned here,
so bear with us for just a second.
Michael Strautmanis: All right. I'm leaving but make sure (inaudible) the love.
(applause)
Erin Hannigan: All right. I think, like Michael said, I think that first panel
was a great discussion.
I'm really looking forward to this next panel.
And, again, thank you to Michael for moderating the panel and for
his passion and leadership on this topic.
But we do have another special guest here who will
be moderating the second panel.
We're honored to be joined here by Idara Nickelson,
who serves as the chief of program operations for the
corporation of national community service.
And I'll let her take it away.
Idara Nickelson: Thank you.
Well, thank you again for being here today.
And I want to turn it over quickly to just dig into this
panel so there's plenty of time to hear about the great work
that they've done.
First, I will start with Todd.
As you heard earlier, Todd is the President of Global Citizen.
He's the founder and director of the Greater Philadelphia Martin
Luther King Day of Service.
So one of the things that you have worked so hard to do is to
make the day, the holiday, not just one day,
that it's really a 365 event.
Can you speak to why you've had that vision and why that's been
so important to you?
Todd Berstein: Sure. It actually started many years ago in a late night
conversation with an idea.
In 1998, two years after the holiday was recognized as a
federal day, I was working late one night in Governor Casey's
administration with Harris Wafford, I was his aide.
And Harris, of course, was on the front lines with Dr. King.
And we talked about how ironic it was that so many people had
fought and struggled for recognition of Dr. King
in this way, and yet two years later, for millions,
particularly young people, it was just becoming a day
of checking out, of sleeping late, going to the mall,
watching a lot of TV.
And Harris had the street cred to be able to say,
Martin would be appalled if he knew that on this day that was
set aside for him, that this was taking place when in fact
Dr. King was a champion of action, an enemy of apathy.
And so we brainstormed that night about what it would be
like if people around the country United of all ages
and backgrounds engaged in a community building experience
of reflecting about Dr. King and his legacy and what he might be
doing if he were alive.
And defining the needs of the community as groups,
as communities of faith, the public sector,
the private sector, all across these ranges.
And to say how can I, one, as an individual respond and take my
concerns about the community and turn them into action,
one person who can make a difference.
But together, as an organization,
and now 17 years after we started,
to see what harnessing the resources available in our
society can do.
You know, I think that unfortunately too many people
see citizenship as ending in the voting booth.
And we all have to realize that once you've handed over the
responsibilities to a mayor or a senator or a president,
that our responsibilities don't end there.
And so we must harness the resources of the public sector
and the private sector and communities of faith.
And I can't think of anyone else in my lifetime who embodies that
spirit of building broad coalitions,
breaking down barriers, bringing together people who might not
ever meet, in a day of honoring him, of celebrating his legacy,
that now has turned into a sustainable commitment,
365 days of the year, to civic engagement
and community involvement.
Idara Nickelson: Yes. And I think David said on the first panel, I mean,
what we're looking for people to be stakeholders
in their communities.
And so what you don't get from one day of service,
from showing up for two hours, which is great, you know,
you can fill that bag, you can write the card for the,
you know, for the troop that's serving abroad.
But about serving day to day, serving every day throughout the
year, it really makes you a stakeholder in your community.
And on that, I just want to turn to Edwin Fizer,
who if we're talking about someone who has dedicated
themselves to service, here, abroad,
one of the first African-Americans in the
marines, which I think, if we could just give a round
of applause to Mr. Fizer and his service.
(applause)
For having to, you know, the service that you provided abroad
and then to come back to a segregated United States and
to continue your service here and now as a senior companion
serving frail elderly in Maine in your community,
can you just speak to how your experiences,
you know, either in the service or when you came back,
how it has driven you to just continue throughout your life
to be a servant for others?
Edwin Fizer: Well, to quote the great lie, it was a barrel of fun.
(laughter)
After service, we started in the service early,
and it turned out it was under some of the most difficult times
in America.
I won't bore you with the details because most of you
are too young to remember.
But there's a few of you who know what it was like and you
can appreciate what we did.
However, I, being a little older,
I got a chance to protect the mentor.
I was in law enforcement in Chicago,
and was in communications, because they say I spoke
fairly well.
And I had the things that you think you want, a house, a wife,
children, you know, all of those little things,
and what do I need?
And I started to listen to Dr. King speak.
And then I realized I had nothing.
When you listen to Dr. King, one of the first -- the things
he would say, I got to know him very well.
He would say things like "we ain't where we want to be,
but I'd hate to be where we were."
And so as time went by, I found out while I was in law
enforcement that they were arresting marchers and peaceful
demonstrators, and the constitution of the United
States categorically states that if you demonstrate peacefully in
this country, you have the right to be protected to march.
And then the bulb went off.
I'm in the wrong outfit.
In the Chicago police department,
there was a point where you can transfer to a unit called
a human relations section and their duty is to protect you in
a constitutional way, because someone had finally seen this,
brought it to the forefront, and that's what we were about.
So I immediately requested transfer to this organization.
And when I did, I was investigated because I was
taking a drop in pay, I would be doing something that was risky,
and so on down the line.
Finally, after that, when any organization was formed,
whether it was slick corps or it was Dr. King coming for open
House marching and so on down the line,
we were assigned to that.
And it was one of the things that where I got to know him
really well because we went into some places that were
particular hell.
To give you just an example of how America was at that time,
just one example, we were on a demonstration in a place called
Bogan, a section of Chicago for open house marching,
and people were throwing rocks and stones and bricks and all
kinds of other things.
And I saw this one gentleman, middle aged,
throw something at the car and was picking up stuff
and throwing it.
So I pointed him out, picked him up, put him in the wagon.
They arrested him, brought him to court the next day where I
was to testify.
You know what his lawyer's defense was?
If he was convicted, he'd be denied citizenship to
the United States.
Anyway, so moving right along, I got to know Dr. King very well.
And we had -- at the times before things started,
we often had times to sit down and talk.
And that was some of the most exhilarating things you ever
wanted to know.
The man was a philosopher.
He had patience.
He had love.
He had feelings.
He had a mission.
He had a plan.
And believe me when I say I was protecting the mentor.
I did.
But I didn't do this alone.
There were 23 other people in the unit.
And whenever this came, our special job was to make sure
that if you told us when you were going to arrive,
where you were going to march, what the purpose of your march
was and you were going to do it peacefully,
the constitution was yours.
And that's what we did.
And from that, it moved on into other things.
I did ten years as a director of the human relations section in
Park Forest working with senior citizens for ten years on their
advisory board.
And then there was a lot we accomplished; a great deal.
Then I moved into this organization called Champions
of Change -- it's not the Champions of Change.
What's the organization?
It's the Senior Companion Program.
And they said it would be simple and it would be easy.
And I remember I got on in '08 and one of the first persons
they give me was a gentleman, he was from Belize.
He had been in the British Army.
He was now one of our senior companions.
And I noticed that something was kind of wrong.
So I went in and told Commodore Evans about it.
We took him to a doctor and he was about to die,
and they put him in the hospital, stabilized him,
and he's living today.
So it's so rewarding when you become a companion to do things
to assist people.
Some things are relatively simple.
This conversation is to the doctor,
is to something that they want to do.
Some ladies just like to shop.
(laughter)
So you do these things, and when you do the reward is tremendous.
I heard this gentleman on the other panel speak about
mentoring with kids.
The community which we live in is so devoid of double families,
father, mother, and so on down the line.
Mentoring is a need that must be done by everyone.
Thank you.
(applause)
Idara Nickelson: So let me turn it over to Maureen.
Maureen is the director of The Campus Kitchens Project which
is the national program of the DC Central Kitchen.
And what struck me also from the first panel is when someone
said, you know, you do something not because -- not just because
you know it's the right thing to do.
But at some point, something impacted you to have you move
in that direction.
So can you tell us about your organization but also just what
drove you to the work?
And talk about the important work that you do.
Maureen Roche: Sure. My organization is the Campus Kitchens Project.
And we are the national program of DC Central Kitchen,
and we operate on 31 colleges and high schools across the
country doing food recovery, meal distribution,
and empowerment programming.
And that programming is nutrition education.
We work in gardens.
We work with farmers and farmers' markets to increase
the use of SSNAP benefits.
Basically, we're doing holistic programming to feel those people
who are being underserved.
Every month, our students will recover about 50,000
pounds of food.
And that really is a drop in the bucket of what goes to waste in
the United States.
One of the real big problems that we face across the country
is this perception that there's just not enough food,
which is completely incorrect.
Most of the issues we deal with are access to food.
And that really goes to the motivation that I have for doing
the work I do because I remember growing up,
being a child in New Windsor, New York,
which is part of the larger Newburgh,
enlarged city area there, where we would work in my kitchen in
my house with my grandmother and my mother to serve food.
My grandmother was a big proponent of feeding people.
We're Irish.
We can't help it.
You know, I remember her going through 20 pounds of potatoes a
week and always telling us that there was more than enough,
not just for us but for the multitude of family we would
have over and all of my cousins who would come over.
And I distinctly remember going to the soup kitchen with my
grandmother, and it was a church based program.
And you know, my mother used to tell us all the time that
we were responsible for other people,
that we were our brother's keeper.
And she didn't mean my literal brother, you know.
But my mother and my father, my grandmother really instilled in
us this idea that we were responsible to one another,
that we were responsible for one another.
And that's one of the things that we work very hard in
working with the students is bringing them to this idea that
you're not just serving someone, that you're getting more out of
it than probably the meal that you're giving someone,
that we all rise together when we serve one another and that,
if you are going to work in service you have to come to it
not expecting anything, not expecting any reward or any
recognition but you're doing that service because those
people are your neighbors and you are responsible to them as
much as they are responsible to you.
Idara Nickelson: I appreciate that.
You know, some would say -- we heard earlier about, you know,
creating pathways for folks across generations to serve.
So certainly at a college campus you have, you know,
ready participants and you have bodies to do the work.
But certainly, are they getting it?
Do they understand why they're serving?
Do they understand, you know, food access could be -- you
know, it's a social justice issue.
It's about making a connection to the person that you're
serving, and that's why you're there, aside from just,
you know, learning what to cook.
So I sense the greater, you know,
the greater purpose of your organization and the need for
the students to not just show up again on that day, you know,
to grab the food, fill the bag, but to take that with them,
you know, throughout the rest of their lives.
Maureen Roche: And we find that with most of our students.
Our kitchens are started by students.
It's not me coming into a community saying, hey,
this is what you need to solve your problems.
It's students looking for those opportunities and coming to me
and saying, you have something I need, here's my community,
how can we work together to help those people in the community
with the resources that community has?
And so, you know, we're not coming and saying we have all
of the solutions to every problem you have.
We have a solution for some people.
But the longevity of any program really does depend on the
students, on the administration of a particular campus,
not community members seeing the value of doing that service,
seeing the value of putting that food that would otherwise go to
waste back into the community, seeing the value of taking it
one step further and not just feeding today but really helping
empower the students to become the leaders of tomorrow and
people to help themselves.
And that's our end goal, really, when we go into a community.
Idara Nickelson: Great.
Now, Rachel knows I know a little bit about the program
that you served in.
You were AmeriCorps VISTA.
Rachel Turner: Yep. That was my second term of service.
Idara Nickelson: That was your second term of service which, just a plug,
is a program of the Corporation for National
Community Service.
And so you've been on both sides of it.
So you served as a VISTA, which has a
direct antipoverty mission.
And now you work with Todd working, you know,
again to create one of the largest MLK days of service
in the country in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Talk about why you chose VISTA.
Talk about why you chose to be of service, you know,
from a young age on and you continue in that work.
Just talk about your experience and why your
new work remains important.
Rachel Turner: Sure. So actually right before I did my term of VISTA at Global
Citizen where I met Todd, I was also an AmeriCorps National
member at YouthBuild Charter School, of course,
based in north Philadelphia.
I'm originally from Central Pennsylvania,
moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University.
I had a very transformational experience,
kind of like David's.
When I was a student at Temple, I was robbed by a group of young
men who couldn't have been any older than, at the time,
my brother, who was about 15 years of age.
And I was so -- my heart just broke.
And afterwards, I cried.
And not, you know, because of the experience but the fact that
there's this group of young men throwing their lives away at 15.
And I just -- from that moment on on, something snapped.
And I said, this is not right, we need to stand up,
we need to come together and work together to help these
young people realize just sort of the mountains of potential
that they have.
And so the AmeriCorps Program, working at YouthBuild Charter
School with students that had previously dropped out of
Philadelphia public schools, I saw how the AmeriCorps program
helped them transform their lives.
All the students at YouthBuild are part-time
AmeriCorps members.
And you know, the AmeriCorps program is a program that can
achieve maximum results with minimal resources.
I watched over 80 some, you know, college -- or excuse me,
formerly high school dropouts walk across that stage,
graduate not only with a high school diploma but also a
vocational certification.
And I said, you know what, this is for me.
I want to be the guy that can build the program or rather give
the avenue of empowerment to these young people.
And so I was very lucky.
The following year, I was able to work with Todd as
an AmeriCorps VISTA on the King Day of Service.
And it's been an amazing journey, being able to see,
specifically on King Day of Service, how, you know,
we can bring people of all backgrounds together to help
meet needs of different communities and really harness
the power of people, because I believe that service, again,
is an avenue of empowerment.
It not only empowers the person that is sort of doing service.
But it empowers the whole community.
And again, the AmeriCorps program has been quite amazing.
And through my experience, this has only made we want to do this
even more and more and more.
So --
Idara Nickelson: Now, Todd, can you speak to -- so everyone on this panel
and the panel before has been honored with being a champion
of change.
And we read the tag line in the back.
It says winning the future.
What do those two things mean to you; being a champion of change,
and also winning the future?
Todd Berstein: Well, I think, as I said right now we're in an economic
situation where there are millions of people who are
out of work.
It's nice that the labor statistics of the last week
showed that unemployment is down to about, I believe 8.6%.
And a lot of those people, of course, are not reported.
But I think that, you know, it reminds me of what Dr. King said
less than a week before he died at the National
Cathedral in Washington.
He talked about -- he was referring to life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness, and that without a job one does
not have life nor liberty, nor the pursuit of happiness,
one merely exists.
And whether it's an older citizen or a young person who
has gone astray because they have not discovered the power
that they have, they've not been empowered -- I mean,
one of the reasons that we do the King Day of Service
particularly focused on young people is for them to discover
that instead of engaging in activity that is negative,
that there is that opportunity and, through service learning,
which I think is incredibly important and something that the
Cooperation for National and Community Service pushes and
advocates very much -- But I think that we're really,
we're losing among young people because unless we teach them at
the earliest of ages that not only do they have a
responsibility to get good grades but that citizenship of
using the experiences in the classroom and taking that into
the community is something that is not only a positive thing but
it's something that will empower them.
It will provide them with the tools to be successful
and succeed in life.
And I saw it when I was in 10th grade,
after the hurricane of 1973, Hurricane Agnes and the effects
that it had in Eastern Pennsylvania.
And we as a class, a 10th grade class,
found ourselves in a sweaty bus going to someplace.
I really don't think I knew what we were doing.
And then this transformative experience for me was to be
in a place, literally knee deep in mud,
standing next to people I didn't know,
didn't think I had anything in common with,
and finding that together, collectively,
we do have the power to make that difference.
And I think the key frankly is being asked to do that,
whether it goes back to Dr. King and the example that he set in
not just identifying the inequities and the
injustices of society, but then calling on people to serve,
whether it was in Montgomery, or whether it was in the '63 march
for jobs and freedom, the poor people's campaign.
It was what President Kennedy did in 1961 in
forming the Peace Corps.
He asked people to serve.
And I think we're a compassionate nation.
Whether it's September 11, 2001 or a national disaster,
people want to serve, having the opportunity to everybody.
But we have to do a better job of providing the resources
to do that.
And I think that many in the administration,
in a bipartisan way, have tried to create the opportunity for
that, whether it's in AmeriCorps to expand from
75,000 to 250,000 to the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.
But I think that we're going to lose this battle on the home
front if we don't provide those resources for us
to come together.
And it's really -- I think we have to begin to look at it more
as an act of patriotism and not just see fighting at wars and on
foreign soul.
But we have so many battles on the home front,
fighting illiteracy and sub-standard housing and
racism that that is a true act of patriotism.
The millions that will serve on Monday, the 85,000 in the
Philadelphia area along with -- we're privileged
to be joined on Monday by Vice President Biden and
Dr. Biden.
Those are the folks who are setting an example that can
serve as that proverbial springboard that is absolutely
necessary to winning the future.
Idara Nickelson: And, of course, key to that is, like you said,
is motivating the next generation to serve and making
it important to them, having them understand how it's
important to them, how it can change their life and how it
can change their community.
And certainly, Mr. Fizer, you have so much wisdom and
experience around this work and what you have,
the experiences that you've had.
Can you speak to how you think we can motivate this generation,
this younger generation to serve and be part of their community
when you've heard about the obstacles that many of them
are facing, coming from broken homes,
living in distressed communities,
having financial insecurity, having emotional insecurity.
How can we motivate them to serve?
How can we have them see the world outside of themselves?
Edwin Fizer: Well, I think if we stop going (making tisk tisk sound)
and everyone get involved, no matter how little experience,
whatever you have, whether it's cooking skills or mothering
skills, you can do something.
But you got to get up off the couch and do it.
Get out there and find that person or persons or
organization and get it done.
It gives you so much back.
You feel so rewarded.
Right now, I have a part-time job as a crossing guard.
And I watch kids go across the streets in the morning.
And you can read from every one of those kids what their
background is like, how they're dressed, hair mannerisms,
how they speak, the different things they do.
I have seen kids lose their backpack,
and I've had things from CEDA, something like that where it's
a temporary backpack.
I'll say ask your mother and your ma, or whoever, at home,
if you can have this.
They'll do it, you know what I mean.
This is not the day where you want to do that.
And they'll come back and say, yes, my mom said I can have it.
They got a temporary bag.
And then suddenly, the old bag is gone, nobody said thanks.
I don't care.
The idea was they had a bag to carry their books until
they got another one.
It's that simple.
If I sound like I'm oversimplifying it, maybe I am.
But you can do things.
And when you do, you'll be well rewarded and your community will
move and advance.
Idara Nickelson: Thank you.
Thank you so much to this panel for sharing your experience.
I congratulate you again on this honor.
So can we just give a round of applause to the second panel?
(applause)
Erin Hannigan: Thank you, Idara.
And thank you again to the second panel and to our first
panel of champions.
Both great discussions.
And now we have two final speakers who are here today
to help close out the event.
But I just want to remind everyone,
both here and watching at home, to learn more about
the champions you heard today, you can go to
www.WhiteHouse.gov/Champions.
But we're honored now to be joined by Jonathan Greenblatt,
the Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and
Civic Participation, and Joshua DuBois,
the Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based
and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Jonathan and Joshua.
(applause)
Joshua Dubois: Well, hello, friends.
Again, my name is Joshua Dubois.
I'm Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood
Partnerships here in the White House.
And on behalf of the President and the entire administration,
I want to offer another word of congratulations
to our wonderful champions.
Let's give them another round of applause.
(applause)
Because of you, so many individuals and families and
communities around the country are really happier and healthier
and more whole.
And that is what President Obama envisions when he thinks about
folks doing service.
And I really want to deeply appreciate your tremendous work.
In addition to the Champions of Change acknowledgment,
there's another award that we actually want to present you
with now that's a special award from President Obama,
one that's particularly focused on Dr. King and his legacy.
The President developed an award called the MLK Drum Majors for
Service Award to acknowledge everyday folks around the
country who are doing tremendous work but
often go unacknowledged.
We piloted this last year but really launched it this year.
And on this Martin Luther King holiday,
over 2,000 folks around the country will receive a Drum
Majors for Service Award.
But you all are the first ones in the entire country to receive
your award.
So in addition to acknowledging them as Champions of Change,
they are also the first in the nation MLK Drum
Majors for Service.
(applause)
I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee.
And my grandmother, Catherine Russell,
was an active participant in the sit-ins in Nashville in the
earliest days of the Civil Rights Movement.
And she used to regale me with stories of that.
And one of the honors of my life has been spending a tremendous
amount of time with my mentors and friends,
Dr. C.T. Vivan and Dr. Joseph Lowery.
So although I don't have personal experience with the
movement, I can safely say that your work truly embodies
Dr. King's legacy.
And I want to appreciate that.
Jonathan Greenblatt is the head of the Office of Social
Innovation and Civic Participation and really
leads the administration's work on service and has helped
to shepherd the MLK Drum Majors for Service Award.
He's going to offer some remarks as well.
Jonathan Greenblatt: Thank you, Joshua.
And I, once again, want to congratulate and also thank all
of you for being here today as our Champions of Change.
As Joshua said, the Champions of Change really celebrate what we
think is best about the country, which is the ability for
ordinary people, average citizens,
no matter where you're from, no matter who you are,
to make a difference and to create change and to strengthen
communities through service.
Service has been a big focus for the President.
All of you know he started out as a community organizer.
And to this day, he has put a high premium for all of us
inside the White House and across the administration to
look at the ways that we can use service to strengthen our
communities, to really expand opportunity.
It's at the highest priority for all of us.
So on behalf of the President and everyone here at the White
House, I once again want to thank you for the remarkable
work that you do, and how you represent what we think is the
highest ideal of service.
Really, again, it's personified by the Drum Majors Award.
So we're just so thrilled to have you be the first recipients
of that and on our program here today.
I also want to thank all of you.
You know, the Champions of Change program is about bringing
people from all over the country here to hear about what we're
doing in the White House but also to really learn from you,
to honor the work and accomplishments of so many
folks and to learn more about the activities that are taking
place at the local level because the President deeply believes
that our work is really about elevating community solutions.
You can't find the answers here in Washington.
They're not going to be contrived in a cubicle or,
you know, thought out in a focus group.
In actuality, they're taking place on the ground in cities
and towns, in schools and churches,
playgrounds and in family rooms all over country.
And you guys all exemplify that.
So thank you for being here today.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
And hopefully, this is a start of a much longer conversation.
We really look forward to that.
(applause)
Joshua DuBois: We just want to show you the Drum Majors Award.
It's actually a reward and a letter from the President and
a lapel pin and some other things that you will be able
to take home and show across your community.
So we will be getting those to you very shortly.
Jonathan Greenblatt: It's Right over here.
Okay. Thank you, guys.
Joshua DuBois: Thank you all!
Jonathan Greenblatt: Have a wonderful afternoon.
(applause)