From ScrappleFace


(2008-09-12) — Jeremy Kleckner, a junior at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., said today that Sen. Barack Obama’s efforts to ignite a wave of young volunteers across the nation is succeeding beyond the Democrat presidential candidate’s wildest dreams.

“He hasn’t even touched the bully pulpit in the White House yet,” said Mr. Kleckner, “and already Obama’s got me excited about volunteering. I heard him talking last night about how we need to give back to our country and he just touched my heart. First thing this morning, I called the Lehigh County Republican committee and asked them how I could help get John McCain and Sarah Palin elected.”

Sen. Obama has made his ability to inspire national service a pillar of his plan to change America — a commitment that he reinforced during The 9/11 Presidential Forum last night at Columbia University.

Unfortunately, viewership of the interview was relatively low, since many Americans were away from their televisions, coaching little league soccer and football, leading scouting programs, attending PTA and church committee meetings, planning community clean up days, participating in a wide-variety of efforts to help people in the U.S. and abroad, or simply helping their children with homework.

Of course, most U.S. public high schools already have a forced-volunteerism program as a graduation requirement to teach young people the joy of altruism, but President Obama’s plan would go further, offering a powerful combination of soaring rhetoric, cash payments and free health insurance to induce people to selflessly sacrifice for their country.

During the Democrat National Convention, Sen. Obama set a powerful personal example by requiring six hours of volunteer service from people who wanted to attend his speech at Invesco Field. By giving their time to his campaign, thousands of people learned the value of tickets to a concert by Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Sheryl Crow and other musicians who warmed up the crowd for the Obama speech.

For his part, Mr. Kleckner said Sen. Obama had given him “a burning desire to be part of something bigger than myself.”

“Obama made me realize,” Mr. Kleckner said, “That I could give a few hours each week to help elect a man who risked his own life volunteering to serve in wartime and whose wife volunteered with medical missions in places like Darfur, along with a woman whose public service career started as a volunteer in an Alaskan PTA.”

Sen. Obama has a history of inspiring others to volunteer dating back to his days as a paid community organizer in a Chicago housing project, where he earned up to $25,000 per year training local volunteers to demand government money for community projects.

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