Commentary: A new tradition of volunteerism

This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.

On the Fourth of July, we light fireworks. On Thanksgiving Day, we feast. On Martin Luther King Day Jr. Day, we – volunteer? That's the tradition our new president wants to encourage.

On this Martin Luther King Day Jr., the day before he is sworn in as president of the United States, Barack Obama, his wife and daughters will volunteer somewhere in the Washington, D.C. area. The president-elect is urging others to follow his lead.

"To honor the legacy of a man who lived his life as a servant to others," Obama said, "I will ask all Americans to renew their commitment to serving their communities and their country."

Such calls for service from presidents aren't new. Most Americans remember John F. Kennedy's inaugural appeal: "Ask not what your country can do for you " But Obama's plea comes with a contemporary online twist. He and former Secretary of State Colin Powell have launched the Renew America Together initiative. Its Web site,, links potential volunteers with thousands of volunteer opportunities across the country.

Hands On Sacramento, the private nonprofit organization that coordinates volunteer activities in Sacramento, Placer, Yolo and El Dorado counties, is the local coordinator for the national MLK day activities. Its goal is to connect 1,500 volunteers with 19 community projects.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.