In New Orleans, already started Barack Obama's call for service
InsideOut editor Renee Peck, Times-Picayune
For once, New Orleans is on the cutting edge of a trend. And when you live in a state that inevitably ranks in the Top 10 for things like obesity and the bottom two for things like education, that's a revelation.
As I listened to President Barack Obama talk about the spirit of service in his inaugural address this week, I realized that we got there first. Sure, it happened because of Hurricane Katrina, but maybe it's also because we are a generous, community-minded populace with open hearts and resilient spirits. And we attract the same.
The metropolitan area has become the nation's biggest backyard laboratory for service learning and volunteerism. That's surely why MTV chose New Orleans as the site of one of three international service projects to spotlight during its "Be the Change" programming on Tuesday night, during inauguration festivities.
"The producers felt like, when you talk about community service, New Orleans is the right place to be, " MTV DJ and location host Carlos Santos said.
Two weeks ago, I gave what I hope will be one of my last death-and-destruction tours to a van full of students from Kenyon College, who spent the week landscaping houses in Central City. Most of them, like leaders Molly McGannon and Dan Caplan, have been here numerous times. The experience, they say, gives them something that a few days on the beach in Florida doesn't provide.
"I really wish I could tell everyone in person about New Orleans and tell them about how wonderful the city is and the people are, and how badly they need everyone's help, " Caplan told me.
Over the years, I've interviewed many people who came here for Mardi Gras and never left. Now, I'm interviewing young people who come to volunteer and never leave.
And they do it without expectations of recompense.
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St. Louis, Missouri, United States