Heart of the Nation: Volunteering and America's Civic Spirit


Heart of the Nation traces America’s volunteer tradition—the golden thread of American democracy—and how Presidents from Washington to Obama have called on citizens to serve neighbor and nation. From the bunker below the White House on 9/11 to villages in Africa, John Bridgeland shares his own experiences inside and outside of government to spark more Americans to volunteer to meet urgent needs. He compellingly argues that such service is fundamental to our own happiness and to what the Founding Fathers ...
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Heart of the Nation: Volunteering and America's Civic Spirit

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Heart of the Nation traces America’s volunteer tradition—the golden thread of American democracy—and how Presidents from Washington to Obama have called on citizens to serve neighbor and nation. From the bunker below the White House on 9/11 to villages in Africa, John Bridgeland shares his own experiences inside and outside of government to spark more Americans to volunteer to meet urgent needs. He compellingly argues that such service is fundamental to our own happiness and to what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they talked about the “pursuit of Happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Bridgeland helps the reader discover their own volunteer service mission and issues a rallying cry to the nation to heal our partisan divisions by joining together across party lines to address our toughest challenges.
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Editorial Reviews

Robert Putnam
John Bridgeland is a national civic asset and a model public servant. A talented senior official in the Bush White House, after 9-11 he reached across lines of party and ideology with the aim of transforming national tragedy into a new culture of service and citizenship. This book records his tireless and creative struggle, overcoming political cynicism and bureaucratic foot-dragging, to foster a new "Greatest Generation." He shows why that effort is important to personal happiness and to national renewal, and provides insightful suggestions for the way forward.
Bruce Reed
As a gripping account of September 11, 2001, from inside the White House bunker and a powerful call to service for all Americans in the years to come, John Bridgeland’s Heart of the Nation is a must-read for citizen activists, history buffs, and political junkies of every stripe. With wit and grace, he explains why the American people are so eager to give something back to their country, and outlines a compelling agenda to give a new generation of citizens the chance to do more. As one of the most successful social policy entrepreneurs in America and one of the most influential proponents of service in our time, John Bridgeland has shown us what a difference an individual can make – and his book is a rallying cry for citizens across the political spectrum to find happiness through common national purpose.
Stephen Goldsmith
Heart of the Nation is an exciting and authentic account of a Presidential initiative to foster our civic spirit after 9-11 from a top official inside the White House. I know, because I was with its author nearly every step of the way. When the history of compassionate conservatism gets written, the efforts after 9-11 to foster a culture of service will be a vitally important chapter. As he did during his White House service in creating the USA Freedom Corps, Bridgeland connects national and community service to one of America’s oldest and most important traditions – our desire to volunteer in local communities to help one another, and in that process, discover the means to our own happiness. The Founders thought citizen engagement was a bedrock of American democracy – and Bridgeland makes a compelling case for the re-ignition of the little platoons of civil society that can strengthen our communities and country. Read this book, absorb its lessons and your life will be enriched.
John DiIulio
Americans have always helped neighbors in need and rallied together during times of national crisis. But as the country confronts ever-greater domestic and global challenges, what can be done to make America’s unique volunteer spirit and can-do civic traditions soar to new heights? How can average citizens, community leaders, philanthropists, corporate executives, government officials and others be motivated more strongly than ever to work together to achieve the common good both at home and abroad? Nobody in America today is better qualified to provide intellectually rigorous yet action-oriented answers to these and related questions than John Bridgeland. Bridgeland is a civic leader for all seasons who has won the respect of the many top leaders in both political parties who, for over a decade now, have consistently sought and benefited from his wise counsel. From creating local nonprofit organizations focused on revitalizing inner cities to founding the first-ever White House program dedicated to mobilizing volunteers all across the nation, Bridgeland has gained powerful and practical insights about what motivates good people to do good, how to forge inter-sector partnerships that make a lasting and positive difference in people’s lives, and how to keep compassionate but cross-pressured political leaders in the fight to do what is right. Whether organizing leading researchers to develop better objective measures of civic health, or advising leading policymakers on how to solve specific problems like the high school dropout epidemic, Bridgeland has brought his front-line experiences to bear in ways that transcend polarized politics, bridge social divides, and get results. Now, in this meticulously researched and beautifully written book, Bridgeland shares what he has learned, from the streets of Cincinnati to the Oval Office, about what makes public-spirited citizens tick, and how government at all levels can do more to tap their energies and make real civic progress. Like its author, this critically important and fun-to-read book is brilliant, warm-hearted, and sincerely public spirited – a real national treasure.
Harris Wofford
This lively story of John Bridgeland’s life inside and outside the George W. Bush White House, shaping the President’s call upon all Americans to volunteer for citizen service in response to the attack on 9-11-2001, is well worth reading. It’s a powerful tale of a promising part of our history that connects the first President Bush’s Thousand Points-of-Light initiative and President Clinton’s AmeriCorps with the second President Bush’s USA Freedom Corps that Bridgeland led, with the quantum leap in volunteering and national service authorized in the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of the first 100 days of the Obama Presidency. Bridgeland challenges readers to rediscover the idea of Public Happiness – the happiness that comes from participating actively in our self-government – which John Adams and Thomas Jefferson agreed they meant, above all, when they put Pursuit of Happiness, in capital letters, in the Declaration of Independence. Bridgeland brings that concept to life.
Walter Isaacson
Ever since Benjamin Franklin, we Americans have been a nation that values civic engagement and service. John Bridgeland describes the noble bipartisan nature of that tradition, and he shows how we can and must keep that instinct alive.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442220614
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/19/2012
  • Pages: 184
  • Sales rank: 1,004,157
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Bridgeland is President & CEO of Civic Enterprises, a public policy firm in Washington, D.C. Bridgeland was recently appointed by President Obama to the White House Council for Community Solutions. Formerly, Bridgeland served as Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council in the first term of President George W. Bush and then as Assistant to the President of the United States and first Director of the USA Freedom Corps, where he coordinated policy on international, national, community and faith-based service in the aftermath of 9/11. Bridgeland also was a co-convener of ServiceNation, a Presidential forum with Senators John McCain and Barack Obama on September 11, 2008, and a national summit that showcased a comprehensive plan to increase community, national and international service opportunities. For his work in promoting the national service agenda, Bridgeland was selected a NonProfit Times Executive of the Year. He lives with his wife, Maureen, and their three children, Caily, Fallon and Regis in McLean, Virginia.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: “Take off your shoes and run”
Chapter 2: 9-11
Chapter 3: Creation of USA Freedom Corps
Chapter 4: Philosophy and Science of Happiness
Chapter 5: “Uncle Sam Wants You”
Chapter 6: Conscience and Culture
Chapter 7: Finding Your Calling
Chapter 7: A Call to National Unity
General References
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