He's probably the most notable and famous hip-hop and R&B star in the world, but when Usher Raymond IV—simply known as Usher—joins first lady Laura Bush and a stage of political, philanthropic, and media stars on 9/11 in New York, his voice won't be offering songs. Instead, he'll be offering his support for the ServiceNation Summit that kicks off a campaign to expand voluntary community national service. "National service is obviously a way to address social challenges like education, like the environment, public health, fighting poverty, disaster relief like the Gulf Coast and Katrina and Gustav," he tells Whispers during a break in shooting his latest music video. "I also believe that we have the ability to see our nation and generation become known as generation S," he adds. "What is generation S? It's ages 18 and under that are making a difference." The music star plans to further explain his generation S agenda during the event this week. Usher is the Youth Chair of ServiceNation, and it's due less to his popularity and songs like the award-winning "Yeah!" than to his New Look agenda built around helping kids get involved in their communities. His latest New Look program is called "I Can't But You Can," which trains kids 17 and younger to register Americans to vote.
"I am blessed to be a blessing to others," he says during two phone calls lasting 20 minutes.
The summit will feature separate appearances by Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, where they will answer questions in a similar forum to the recent Saddleback event.
Laura Bush will be among the featured guests, says the White House. "We are excited to have Mrs. Bush join us at such an historic event," says Alan Khazei, CEO of Be The Change Inc., and one of the major organizers. "As somebody who has promoted volunteerism and civic engagement for the past eight years as first lady, Mrs. Bush has a wealth of experience that will make the ServiceNation Summit that much more meaningful and help us further elevate service as a core ideal of our democracy," he adds.
The event lasts two days and will include others like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Jordan's Queen Noor, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
Back to Usher. As a leader among kids, he believes what a wave of new polls claim: That America's youth volunteer more than previous generations and that they are into the work less for money than to better their communities. "Change," says Usher, "always comes from the masses and youth has been at the center of that. Youth has always been the leader of change." Usher, a supporter of Obama, adds that his goal is not politically driven. "It is my personal mission to empower youth," he says.