Friday, January 21, 2011

Celebrating 50 Years of National Service

By Isabel Huston, corps member on the CSX team serving at Turner Elementary School

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the 50th Anniversary of the Inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

City Year Washington, DC corps members with
Former Senator Harris Wofford
The event held at the Russell Senate Building on Capitol Hill commemorated the inception of JFK’s lasting legacy of national service. As I stood with fellow corps members CaTiffany Banks, Hank Sell, John Elwell and Sadaya Johnson (just feet from Nacy Pelosi!) and listened to President Kennedy’s often quoted speech, I was amazed at how much his words still resonate today.

As we canvassed the room, the inimitable City Year Co-Founder and CEO Michael Brown acting as our tour guide, we had the chance to see the faces that started and have since kept the national service movement alive. Caroline Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy, Chief Justice Joseph Brier, Senator John Kerry, Former Senator and City Year Champion Harris Wofford—the sight of each face reminded me of the impressive network to which our service is connected. It has taken a long line of very dedicated and very inspirational individuals to raise the consciousness of our nation. As a City Year corps member it was humbling to realize that I, too, am a part of this movement. My fellow corps members and I are the next generation to carry the torch.

But even as the National Service Movement has grown exponentially since January 20, 1961, there is still work to do. In our nation’s capitol alone there are still people who go hungry every day, there are still children who are left behind by an education system that cannot support them, there is still an unbelievable HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Thus, in the light of this important anniversary, I repeat the words that our President spoke 50 years ago:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America can do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

I will serve. What will you do?

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