Obama and McCain to appear at service forum tonight

When John McCain and Barack Obama meet tonight to discuss national service at the Nation of Service Forum in New York city, it will be one of the most unique events in recent political history.

They will not be there to debate but rather give people the benefit of their personal views on service and how that view was shaped early on:

The summit is part of a campaign aimed at getting comprehensive, bipartisan national community service legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by Sept. 11, 2009. The groups plan to push for that by working with the next president in the transition, on the State of the Union address and during the budget process.

Stengel said he will encourage the candidates to be "both eloquent and intimate about their beliefs in this area."

"I hope they will be able to blend the personal with the political on this subject, so that they can talk about what is it in their own lives that made them believe and care about this, as opposed to just saying, ‘Here's my policy,' " Stengel said.

"Their lives have revolved around service. Both men, from an early age, had the idea of service built into their own view of their lives and what they would do with their lives. I think whoever is president will make service a big part of their administration."

Obama has come out in favor of a program that would require all middle and high school kids to serve 50 hours in the community every year. He has also falsely claims that George Bush did not ask Americans to volunteer after 9/11. The facts are different:

Bridgeland said that to an encouraging degree, Americans have sustained the spirit of service after the attacks of Sept. 11. According to Census Bureau calculations based on a 100,000-household survey, 59.8 million Americans regularly volunteered the next year through workplaces, schools, faith-based institutions and non-profits - a figure that grew over the next four years to 65.4 million. Now, it's about 61 million.

"We want to get to 100 million Americans serving every year," Bridgeland said, adding that he hopes Americans who hear the candidates' personal stories will ask: "What am I going to do to help shape American history?"

McCain's call for increased funding for Americorps and pushing volunteerism stands in stark contrast to Obama's draconian call to force kids into altruism. But seeing both men on stage on the 7th anniversary of 9/11 should be heartening to those who seek a more civil discourse when it comes to politics and they should be commended for participating.
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