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Joshua DuBois, the head of the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Shinnyo-en Foundation CEO, Haru Inouye, Pledge their support to President Obama’s “United We Serve” Initiative

Joshua DuBois

On Tuesday, June 23rd, over 500 inter-generational and interfaith leaders gathered for Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships Day, a unique feature of the National Conference of Volunteering and Service sponsored by The Shinnyo-en Foundation.

Haru Inouye, CEO of The Shinnyo-en Foundation, was a guest speaker at the opening session and pledged both personal and Foundation support to President Obama’s “United We Serve” Initiative.  He also shared reflections on service from a Buddhist perspective, sharing inspirational stories of Shinnyo-en Founder Shinjo Ito’s altruism, as well as the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Dialogues following the Hawaii Lantern Floating Ceremony this past May.

The “United We Service” initiative is designed specifically to expand the impact of existing organizations by engaging new volunteers in their work to encourage volunteers to develop their own “do-it-yourself” projects.  “United We Serve” is an initial 81 days of service but will grow into a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to promote service as a way of life for all Americans.

The Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships Day began with an interfaith prayer breakfast, followed by welcoming remarks from Rev. Mark Farr and Neil Bush of the Points of Light Institute, David Caprara of the Global Peace Service Alliance and the Brookings Institution, as well as John Kelly and Hyepin Im of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Mark Herbert delivered a message of welcome from Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, as well.

A highlight of the morning was special guest and keynote speaker, Reverend Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  Rev. DuBois spoke in regards to President Obama’s plan for engaging communities of faith in national service projects.  Among the primary goals were integrating faith-based community groups in the economic recovery plan, finding more ways to fortify fatherhood and family relationships, and finding common ground among charged political issues such as gay-marriage or abortion.  He also proposed ways of promoting interfaith dialogue, such as integrating delegates from his office in other White House departments, such as the Department of Labor or Department of Education.  Rev. Dubois later opened the room up for an illuminating and engaging question and answer session. One major theme emerged during the dialogue between participants and Rev. DuBois: How can we collaborate with each other more on local and national levels?

The bulk of the morning and into the afternoon was filled with a series of fascinating panels and workshops on global service movements. Shinnyo-en Foundation consultant, Maura Wolf, moderated a panel entitled “Innovative Approaches for Communities of Faith”.  Six Billion Paths to Peace Local Peacemaker Award Winner, Nan Peterson of The Blake School in Minneapolis as well as long time Foundation partner and friend, Deacon Steve Herrera of the Diocese of San Jose, and Haru Inouye contributed as panelists.  The goal of the panel was to share best practices in an interfaith setting that combined spirituality and service, and how this might lead to a greater peace– a tenant of the Six Billion Paths to Peace Initiative.