National Service Reminds Us What Makes America Great


Greatness is a political football right now.  I have always been a fan of the opinion shared by Alexis de Toqueville and Dr. Martin Luther King. De Toqueville said, “America is great, because America is good.”

When he visited America as a new Republic, he was astonished by the wide spread, common impulse of Americans to work together to help each other and create public good through associations of every type. He saw that the greatness at the soul of our nation was inextricably linked to our willingness to freely volunteer our time and talents to create a common good. The great-grandchildren of those associations he admired are alive and thriving in the nonprofits and service clubs here in our community, and in every community across America. And, they still rely on voluntary donations of time and money to exist.

Almost 150 years later, the great American leader Dr. Martin Luther King said from his pulpit, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

He saw that the heart of individual greatness was through actions in service to others. This message of greatness through good, kind actions was so central to Dr. King that the King Family encourages everyone to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy through a day of National Service on the King Holiday in January; as does Cesar Chavez’ family on his holiday in California every March.

I am sad and frustrated when I see and hear the words dominating the American discussion right now. I’m pretty sure I am not alone. National Days of Service help us remember that talk is cheap and our actions can speak louder than those words of division, derision or pessimism that are definitely not what is best about us as people, or as a nation.

Make A Difference Day – the largest day of Service on Earth – is right around the corner, thankfully before the election.

The Volunteer Center in partnership with fellow non-profits will offer 14 volunteer projects throughout the weekend of October 21st in honor of this National Day of Service.

If you want to meet great Americans and feel what it’s like to take part in the great American tradition of creating good through service we invite you to  join us. Together we can transform our community for good.

Learn More about Make a Difference Day Opportunities in Santa Cruz County


karen-delaneyBlog Post Written by Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney.  Karen has led the Volunteer Center for more than 30 years and is an internationally recognized leader, trainer and speaker in the field of volunteerism, community building and nonprofit management. Karen’s formula for success is “hope, fun, curiosity, gratitude, belief in people and good data.”

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