WASHINGTON, D.C. — Inauguration Weekend officially got under way Saturday (January 19) morning with the National Day of Service Summit, which brought together nearly 100 different service organizations (not to mention Eva Longoria and Chelsea Clinton) to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr ... and inspire Americans to help give back to their communities.
Yes, in a town known for its partisan bickering, politics were put aside in the spirit of volunteerism, as the Summit focused on seven different themes of service: community resilience, economic development, education, environment, faith, health and veterans and military families. In short, no matter which way you lean, we are all members of the same community ... one that is always looking for new volunteers to lend a hand.
"Politics is not just this removed thing that happens in Washington, D.C., or in your state capital, it's something that happens in ever single community, on every different level," Shaun Rieley, a veteran who works with the American Legion, said. "And volunteering is one of those things that helps communities come together. It gives each individual a stake in the community, and, in turn, the community provides and helps each individual. So it's a mutual relationship."
The Summit stretched across the National Mall, with both national and local volunteer organizations meeting with potential volunteers. Though all of them came with the same basic message: Serving the community is what makes this nation truly great.
"Giving back to your community unifies the community; you invest in your community and it grows and prospers and then you are better off because of it," Karen Bryson, a volunteer for the education organization Jumpstart said. "Everyone can help out, and there are so many different organizations. I joined in school, on my college campus, and I've worked with young students ... it's the greatest thing."
"It's incredibly empowering," Shawn Sweeney, who handles youth outreach for Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots organization, added. "I've been doing this long enough that I've seen little kids who we worked with go all the way through college and end up dedicating themselves to service in their careers; it's the right thing to do, and it's fun and it's a way to do something positive."
Though the event was happening in D.C., the Day of Service is truly a national celebration, with service projects taking place in all 50 states. And that's fitting, given that Inauguration Weekend will culminate on Monday — Martin Luther King, Jr Day — with the swearing-in of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden ... because King's undying legacy truly was one of giving back and helping those less fortunate.
"Martin Luther King, Jr was one of the most incredible leaders of our country and there's no better way to honor his legacy than to honor service and his desire for service," Kelly McCormack, a volunteer for the Peace Corps said. "That's a big reason why we're all here today, and thinking about whats best for our country and the world at large."
For ways you can volunteer, check out the National Day Of Service's official site.
Stick with MTV News for Inauguration Weekend as we bring you all the latest from the D.C. presidential events, performances and parties right through the official swearing-in on Monday, January 21. And although the election's over, you can still get involved and be heard by heading over to serve.mtv.com.