By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
He's a singing sensation and actor, but when Usher Raymond IV comes to Washington, it's because of his other passion: volunteerism. This week, he applauded Barack Obama's signing of the $5.7 billion national service bill and joined Ted Turner's fight against malaria in Africa. Usher has also signaled that he plans to be on the president's bench of those called to mentor a new generation of young volunteers. "Now we have an outlet," he says. "We have a stage to show how change and service can make a difference."
First up: Joining Turner and his United Nations Foundation's worldwide campaign to send bed nets to African villages plagued by malaria, carried by mosquitoes. "What you have is the beginning of a very beautiful relationship that's going to mature into a long-term relationship," Usher says. Next, he might team with the White House on summer youth service initiatives, everything from cleaning up parks to leadership camps. On Wednesday, he met with first lady Michelle Obama's staff to preview some plans. "I love her," Usher says of Michelle. "She's one of the greatest women on planet Earth!"
While he's been a volunteer since his teens, Usher—sponsor of the New Look foundation that provides leadership opportunities to kids—is just getting started. He credits the efforts of Obama and Turner for inspiring him further. "This is ramping up. We haven't hit a crescendo."
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR
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