America is the original DIY culture--Do It Yourself. From the first settlement at Jamestown through today, we have been doing things ourselves.
Last year I wrote a cover story called "The Case for National Service." Now that the argument has been made, this year we're asking, How do we help execute that vision? Well, by doing it yourself--except in this case, we have hundreds of partners.
We became a co-sponsor this year of a national-service summit whose mission is to make national service a reality for all Americans. We partnered with ServiceNation, a new coalition of 110 organizations dedicated to volunteer service, to convene a two-day gathering in New York City, on Sept. 11 and 12, that we're confident will have a lasting significance.
The thinking behind the event was simple: Let's bring together scores of thinkers and leaders in government, business and the nonprofit world to trade ideas for solving our greatest challenges through national service and civic engagement. Our partners have been formidable. The organizers include Alan Khazei of Be the Change, Michael Brown of City Year and John Bridgeland of Civic Enterprises. Joining me as co-chairs are Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York; Alma Powell, who runs America's Promise Alliance; Bill Novelli, CEO of AARP; Laysha Ward, president of Community Relations and the Target Foundation; and Caroline Kennedy, whose father framed the mission best: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
It was decided that Day One--on Sept. 11, the anniversary of one of the greatest challenges this country has faced--would be devoted to the ServiceNation Presidential Candidates Forum at Columbia University. In their first joint appearance since becoming the official nominees of their parties, John McCain and Barack Obama would separately and in turn discuss their vision for national service--and how they would try to inspire the country with that vision. It is a tribute to their commitment to this issue that they both agreed to participate in the event with only seven weeks to go before Election Day. In back-to-back interviews, they agreed to answer questions presented by me and PBS political editor Judy Woodruff--and by you, via questions submitted online in the days before the event.
This is our second annual national-service special issue. Put together by a team that includes Jeremy Caplan, Laura Fitzpatrick, D.W. Pine and Julie Rawe, it contains 21 ways Americans can volunteer--right now. Bridgeland and John DiIulio Jr. suggest rethinking the kind of service we associate with Christmas. Colin Powell and Arnold Schwarzenegger each explain the passion they have for creating structures that foster civic engagement. And Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch talk about their Senate bill aimed at promoting national service.
We call it "21 Ways to Serve America." This is about practice, not theory. As I said, America is a do-it-yourself culture. And at Time we believe that even fixing the world can be a DIY project.
Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR