Obama asks Americans to devote themselves to social service


Washington: Giving a clarion call to his countrymen to devote themselves to voluntary social service, US President Barack Obama on Friday said he would not be in the position he is now if it was not for service to others.

"I would not be standing here if it were not for service to others, and the purpose that service gave to my own life," Obama said in an address to several hundred members of the AmeriCorps on the occasion of the volunteer programme's 20th anniversary.

"I moved to Chicago to become a community organiser in parts of that town where steel plants had closed down and hope had dried up. And I wasn't sure what I was doing. I wasn't sure that I'd be successful. I was working with a group of churches out there and we didn't have a lot of funding. I think my starting salary was USD 13,000 a year, and gas expenses," the US President said.

Obama said what he found was that with patience and dedicated effort, he could make a difference.

"It wasn't always 100 per cent of what I wanted; sometimes it was just 20 per cent, sometimes it was just 50 per cent. But it turned out that you could nudge history forward. You could shape it. You could see the lives of people that you cared about improving because of the blood and sweat and tears you were putting into it," he said addressing AmeriCorps members on the South lawns of the White House.

Former US President Bill Clinton, who founded the AmeriCorps 20 years ago, also address the gathering.

Obama, while talking about his days of service to the people in Chicago, said "Then I found a community for myself, and I began to understand what citizenship meant -- not just some abstraction, not just words on a page, not just rights and privileges, but duties and responsibilities. And it gave me a sense of direction about how I wanted to live my life."

"So, as it turned out, the idea of making a difference in other people's lives made a difference in mine. It made me whole. It gave me centre. It gave me a compass," Obama said.


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