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Published: Thursday, 7/3/2008

Obama calls on Americans to serve society


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Barack Obama urged people yesterday to look past the "bustle and busyness" of their everyday lives this Fourth of July weekend to find a way to help make the American dream real not just for themselves, but for all.

The call for service is part of a flag-draped week focused on God, country, veterans, and freedom.

They are larger-than-life themes, all prominent in the successful campaigns of President Bush and aimed at introducing Mr. Obama to Americans who know little about the presumed Democratic nominee - or who may be skeptical based on what they've heard.

Before a boisterous University of Colorado crowd, Mr. Obama said the quiet after Independence Day celebrations would be a good time to consider how to contribute "to our most pressing national challenges," whether in the military, overseas, or just next door.

"I hope that you take a moment to think about what you can do to shape a country we love, shape its future," Mr. Obama said.

He talked about the impact service had on him, as a boy who "spent much of my childhood adrift" and often had little idea "who I was or where I was going."

But early in college, he said, values like hard work and empathy instilled by his mother and grandparents resurfaced. He found himself working as a community organizer in a South Side Chicago neighborhood, and said he was transformed.

Mr. Obama's call echoed Mr. Bush's "love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself," an enduring staple of the President's political speeches of the last eight years.

But Mr. Obama's campaign said the focus on service was meant to reach back to President John F. Kennedy's generation-captivating "ask not what your country can do for you" inaugural address or President Clinton's creation of AmeriCorps.

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