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Jan. 15, 2009

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As the first Columbia College graduate to be elected President of the United States, Barack Obama has made public service and civic engagement—especially by young people—a central theme of his campaign and inauguration. More than ever before, public service is woven into the fabric of life at Columbia University—from its core curriculum, created to nurture both critical thinking and a sense of democratic responsibility, to the thousands of students, faculty and staff who participate in service-learning, social entrepreneurship and community partnerships delivering healthcare, education, legal and human services, and economic opportunity both locally and globally.

"Scholarship and teaching are the core of what universities do," Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said at the ServiceNation Presidential Candidate's Forum held at the University last September, "and these are supplemented by the acts of hundreds of thousands of members of our extended community who seek to tame disease, bring help to every region of the world and meld art with meaning."

Columbia University supports President-elect Barack Obama's call to Americans to observe both the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and the presidential inauguration as opportunities to make a lasting commitment to improve our nation and the lives of our fellow citizens.

"Part of what makes America work is the fact that we believe in individual responsibility and self-reliance, but we also believe in mutual responsibility, in neighborliness, in a sense that we are committed to something larger than ourselves," said then-Senator Obama when he and Sen. McCain spoke on Columbia's campus during the ServiceNation Forum. "Every bit of progress that we've made historically is because of that kind of active citizenship. And as president, what I want to do is restore that sense of common mutual responsibility. And I think the American people are ready for it."

On Jan. 20, the Columbia University community will gather for an outdoor viewing of the presidential inauguration on Low Library Plaza. And at 10 p.m., MTV's broadcast of the Youth Inaugural Ball will feature Columbia student, Cyrus Moussavi, who is a volunteer in the Millennium Village in Kenya.

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