Obama: Community service is national duty

WASHINGTON The president and first lady Michelle Obama did their part at Fort McNair, helping volunteers load 15,000 backpacks with books, healthy snacks and toys for children of the men and women of the armed forces.

"Serving our country is not just something that we should expect our members of our armed forces to do," Obama said, "That's something that we should expect all of us as citizens to do."

The Obamas were joined by their daughters, Malia and Sasha, members of Congress and their families, and volunteers from nonprofit organizations.

Promoting volunteerism and community service has been a priority for the Obamas. The president often credits his work as a community organizer in his early 20s for giving him direction in life.

This week, Obama kicked off the "United We Serve" program, a service initiative led by the government-run Corporation for National and Community Service. The effort is aimed at getting people to tackle problems in the areas of education, health, energy and the environment and community renewal.

Obama said community service is one way Americans can "make this country stronger."

The initiative will continue through Sept. 11, which recently was designated by Congress as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Earlier this year, the president signed a $5.7 billion national service bill that triples the size of the AmeriCorps service program over the next eight years. It also expands ways for students to earn money for college by helping those in their neighborhoods.

People can find local needs and volunteer opportunities online at www.serve.gov. Organizations can also post service events on the Web site.

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