Thursday New Tools Feature: SWM Seeking Service

As our fellows Morley Winograd and Mike Hais wrote about earlier this week, President Obama signed into law on Tuesday the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Here's an excerpt from their take on the act; they wrote that it

...represents a major redemption of candidate Obama’s promise to offer his most loyal and largest constituency, Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, a chance to serve their country at the community level and in return earn assistance with the cost of their college education.

Not everyone is ready to join hands and sing the praises of the concept, however. While [the bill] enjoyed bipartisan sponsorship in both the Senate and the House, that didn’t prevent a majority of Republicans from voting against the bill on final passage. They complained that the bill was “too expensive” and would crowd out pure volunteer work with program participants receiving a modicum of financial support for their efforts from the federal government. In the House, 149 of 175 Republicans voted “no,” joined by 19 of their colleagues in the Senate, including the party's two top leaders. With all Democrats voting in favor of [the bill], the core of the Republican’s “Just say no” caucus demonstrated how out of touch with the Millennial Generation they are.

Of those Republicans expressing their opposition in the Senate, only one, John Ensign of Nevada, was from a state that Obama carried. Even though both Republican Senators from such bright red states as Utah, Georgia and Mississippi could see the potential value of increasing the number of volunteers and college students in the country’s civic life, both GOP Senators from South Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Idaho made it clear that there were no circumstances under which their hostility to government could be softened by the merits of a patriotic cause.

As Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina put it on his Web site, "We need to recognize that this bill does represent a lot of what's wrong with our federal government today.... civil society works, because it is everything that government is not. It's small, it's personal, it's responsible, it's accountable.” And Louisiana Senator David Vitter spuriously argued, “This new federal bureaucracy would, in effect, politicize charitable activity around the country." Echoing Governor Sarah Palin’s horribly off key comment at her party’s convention last August that “the world isn’t a community and it doesn’t need an organizer,” these Republicans demonstrated just how out of touch they are with Millennial thinking.

I wholeheartedly agree with Morley and Mike that members of my generation are lookings for ways to do good for our country (and others) - in fact, many are frustrated with how difficult it is to find something worthwhile to do after graduating, particularly since monetary compensation is often a secondary or tertiary concern. Lucikly, President Obama understands the way that we millennials operate - if we want to go get a drink after work, for example, we might be more inclined to check out for specials first. So the Obama administration has launched a new Web site,, to help unite people with service opportunities that match their interests and passions. is wonderful in its simplicity. It asks you what you're interested in, and where you want to be working, and that's it - the engine searches all posted entries that match your critera. It searches entries posted on itself, as well as on all of these partner sites: America's Promise Alliance AmeriCorps Citizen Corps
Corporation for National and Community Service U.S. Department of Homeland Security HandsOn Network
Learn and Serve America Mentor Martin Luther King Jr., Day of Service Network for Good
Peace Corps President's Council on Service and Civic Participation Senior Corps Youth Service America
United Way - Volunteer Solutions VolunteerMatch Register Your Event or Project

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist (and a supporter of NDN) was on hand at the signing. Here's what he had to say about the act, and the new site (courtesy of TechPresident):

Many people want to fully dedicate themselves to service, they're troops, teachers, social workers, cops, and all manner of public servants. We should remember the nobility of the public service they perform.

Me, I spend a lot of every day performing customer service and see real human behavior. I see, every day, that Americans are eager to help out, particularly the millennial youth, maybe the new "civic generation."

Serve America provides means for those who want to fully engage, like by seriously increasing support for Americorps, increasing the number of participants from 75,000 positions annually to 250,000...

...Serve America also provides for, a new Web 2.0-style government site that brings together service opportunities from a number of sources. It's genuinely innovative, especially in allowing any organization to create its listing on the site, building on top of the Network for Good platform.

Coming from Mr. Newmark, that is high praise - and it seems like this will have a much higher chance of success than "missed connections."