Today I was given an amazing gift. The kind of gift that takes your breath away…. The gentleman who gave me the gift is Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year and founder of Be The Change/Service Nation. Mr. Khazei, an inspirational social entrepreneur, has been one of my heroes for the past 10 years. Today at a rally in the Boston Common Alan formally announced that he would run for Ted Kennedy’s senate seat. My gift came at the end of his announcement speech.
Alan has visited us at our Treehouse Community in western Massachusetts. Treehouse was on Alan’s What Works Tour – a tour of successful Massachusetts programs that Alan would like to take with him to Washington for replication. He understands the value of creating multi-generational communities that support families who are adopting children from the foster care system. He appreciates the strategy of asking people of all ages to become part of a re-envisioning of foster care. Like me, he would like to see Treehouse Communities built all across the country. Like me, Alan believes that citizen led initiatives are powerful tools for change.
Alan is an innovative thinker who envisions new realities and then works hard to make them happen. I remember when Time magazine named him one of the “Top 50 Leaders Under 40”. Alan and his wife, Vanessa Kirsch of New Profit Inc. have dedicated themselves to developing innovative solutions to social problems for almost 20 years. These two leading social entrepreneurs have collaborated with citizens, legislators, philanthropists, business leaders, social entrepreneurs and Presidents to bring much needed change to communities across America.
Alan worked side by side with Senator Kennedy to craft the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act that President Obama signed in April. The Act is considered to be a milestone for the national service movement. More importantly, it offers up a new public philosophy that encourages America to look to its entrepreneurs and innovators in both the public and private sectors for creative solutions to our most pressing social needs.
Alan’s keen intelligence, combined with an outstanding ability to bring people together and move them forward is awe-inspiring. At today’s rally a City Year alum spoke about the power of Alan’s approach to national service and youth empowerment. His leadership skills, combined with a deep dedication to making this country stronger, make Alan an outstanding candidate for our next Massachusetts state senator.
At the end of his announcement, Alan spoke about the need for Big Citizenship. He spoke about the need to look to what has always been America’s greatest natural resource – We the People. He reminded us that it has always been citizens that have led great change in America. He encouraged people to become engaged. Then he shared my story – the story of one woman’s personal journey from ordinary citizen to social entrepreneur, inspired by the children she loves and finds worthy of her investment.
In doing so he honored our children experiencing foster care. He extended his hand and said, “You are on the right track. You are motivating people to transform foster care.” It was a generous and kind act. In that moment Alan Khazei blessed my life and my vision. He gave me hope. Hope for my dreams, hope for my Big Citizenship ideas, and hope for our children.
Thank you Alan! Here’s to a whole host of new realities and opportunities for our young people in foster care and their peers throughout the Commonwealth. Here’s to a whole host of new citizen led initiatives that strengthen the lives of all of us who live in America! Here’s to you!