Friday, January 9, 2009

Obama, Powell promote call for community service

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Former secretary of state Colin Powell helped promote a mass volunteer initiative on behalf of US president-elect Barack Obama Friday, calling on Americans to make long-term commitment to serve their communities.

Obama and his family, along with vice president-elect Joe Biden and his wife, are set to officially launch the "Renew America Together" initiative on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday January 19 -- the day before Obama's inauguration -- by taking part in community service activities in Washington.

"Volunteering is something you give to your community and to our society," Powell said at a press conference. "It comes back to you in terms of satisfaction, in terms of feeling good about yourself."

Obama's transition team will manage the program by relying heavily on the Internet, a tool Obama used with historic success during his presidential campaign.

With the launch of a new website -- -- that works as a hub similar to the popular Craigslist classifieds site, users are able to promote their own community service events, or seek out opportunities for getting involved.

The site already has some 5,000 volunteer events scheduled across the country, according to presidential inaugural committee spokeswoman Linda Douglass.

Retired general Powell, who served as secretary of state in President George. W Bush's first term, threw his support behind Obama in the last weeks of the campaign.

"We're not just asking the American people for one day of service. We are asking you to make an ongoing commitment of your time -- an hour, a weekend, whatever you can spare," he said.

"That's how we're going to rebuild this country and meet our great challenges -- together," according to Powell, who described the national wave of community service as a "crusade."

Obama, who worked as a community organizer himself two decades ago in Chicago, can "tap into the enthusiasm" that his campaign generated to inspire people to volunteer, Powell added.

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