WASHINGTON - Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton has signed on to help promote President Barack Obama's inaugural kick-off event to get Americans across the country engaged in serving their communities.
Inaugural planners announced Tuesday that Clinton will be honorary chair of the National Day of Service, the president's call for Americans to honour the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the holiday weekend celebrating his birthday. They said Clinton would headline a service summit on the National Mall Saturday, with other participants including actresses Eva Longoria and Angela Bassett, singers Ben Folds and Yolanda Adams, television personality Star Jones and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, the vice-president's son.
It's a new inaugural role for the 32-year-old Clinton who participated in the festivities as an adolescent, standing next to her father, Bill Clinton, as he was sworn into office in 1993 and 1997.
Clinton was often seen but not heard as a youth growing up in the White House, but increasingly has made her public voice heard in recent years. She campaigned for her mom, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's, 2008 presidential primary campaign against Obama and now is an NBC News special correspondent. Last fall she travelled to Nigeria on behalf of her father's charitable foundation, meeting with the country's president and promoting the Clinton Health Access Initiative's efforts to reduce child mortality there.
A week after Election Day, she appeared at the Glamour Women of the Year awards in New York with a stage full of women who had been involved in races across the country, noting that gender progress was made in 2012 although there still is a long way to go. She has promoted efforts to allow gay marriage and assisted in raising money for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"When I was growing up, both my parents and grandparents instilled a commitment to service in me," Clinton said in a statement provided to The Associated Press by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. "They taught me that helping our neighbours and serving our community were essential parts of being a good citizen and a good person."
Inauguration planners are asking people across the country to sign up for the effort and have staff in all 50 states to co-ordinate activities across the nation. Obama, a one-time community organizer, began the tradition four years ago, expanded it this time and hopes to make it an inaugural tradition, planners say.
"I wanted service to be a big part of my inauguration because it's played a huge role in my life," Obama said in an email sent to supporters Tuesday, encouraging them to sign up for the National Day of Service. "As a young community organizer starting out in Chicago, I learned that the best ideas, the ones that succeed, take hold at the grassroots. No one needs to wait on politicians or Washington: Change happens when individuals take responsibility for one another and their communities."
The fair that Clinton will be headlining will feature nearly 100 organizations with service opportunities in seven areas — community resilience, economic development, education, environment, faith, health and veterans and military families. Clinton said in her statement that Saturday is just the beginning — Obama is asking people to pledge to keep volunteering regularly help their neighbours in the long term.
"Think about how much good we can all do if everyone who pitches in this weekend keeps up that commitment throughout the year," she said. She added that she'll be thinking of her late grandmothers when she takes part because they always found time to volunteer for their churches, communities and kids' schools no matter what else was going on in their lives.
Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and members of their families plan to take part in service events Saturday in the Washington area.
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