Cutting Through Politics: The Importance of Service

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What can we do when politicians prefer polarizing rhetoric to concrete action? We can roll up our sleeves and serve those who need help. Meaningful service can be the antidote to disappointing political paralysis. In this episode of Add Passion and Stir, two longtime leaders in service, Michael Brown of City Year and Boston chef Jason Santos (Buttermilk and Bourbon) talk with host and Share Our Strength founder and CEO Billy Shore about why it is so important to ‘turn on your social justice nerve’ and ‘flex your service muscle.’ Michael founded City Year in 1988 in Boston and grew it to a national service program of 3,100 18-25 year olds improving academic performance in high-poverty, poor performing schools in 28 cities. “Service is part of the American spirit… it is at the very heart of how we perceive ourselves as a nation,“ he declares. Jason began volunteering with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign more than 20 years ago as a very young chef, and since then has taught many Cooking Matters courses, been inducted into the Cooking Matters Hall of Fame, and raised an impressive amount of money for the campaign. “I have to do my part to help fix something that, in 2017, still blows me away that it’s such a problem,” he says. Listen to how these leaders use service to cut through politics and give themselves and others the gratifying experience of serving others.

Resources and Mentions:

Jason Santos

Jason developed a passion for cooking before his ninth birthday. While other kids were watching Sesame Street, he grew up experimenting in his grandmother’s kitchen while watching Julia Child. By age 19, he was a graduate of Newbury College’s culinary arts program, in Newton, Mass. He cut his teeth at Andy Husbands’ Tremont 647 and rose through the ranks to executive chef. After six years honing his personal style there, he joined Gargoyles on the Square as executive chef in 2005. His fusion of new techniques and exotic ingredients into bistro fare earned plaudits from several Boston publications, including The Boston Globe, where he landed the cover of the Food Section. Santos appeared on Season 7 of Fox’s hit television show Hell’s Kitchen, where he earned him runner-up status. He now divides his time as owner and executive chef at Abby Lane, Citrus and Salt, and Buttermilk and Biscuits in Boston.

Michael Brown

CEO and Co-Founder of City Year, an education-focused nonprofit organization that mobilizes idealistic young people for a year of service in high-need schools and promotes the concept of voluntary national service as means of building a stronger democracy. This year more than 3,000 City Year AmeriCorps members are helping to address the nation’s high school dropout crisis and turnaround low performing schools by serving as full-time tutors, mentors and role models in high-need schools in 29 U.S. cities. City Year also has affiliates in South Africa and the UK. For his work developing City Year and advancing the national service movement, Michael has been awarded the Reebok Human Rights Award, Independent Sector’s John W. Gardner Leadership Award and has been named one of America’s Best Leaders by US News & World Report as well as an Executive of the Year and member of The Power and Influence Top 50 by The NonProfit Times. Michael is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.

City Year

Helps to close gaps in high-need schools by supporting students’ academic and social-emotional development while also providing schools with the additional capacity to enhance school culture and climate. It partners with schools to help bridge the gap by providing diverse, talented and trained young adult tutors, mentors and role models who work alongside teachers to support student success. City Year provides a powerful double bottom line: improved outcomes for students in high-need schools and the cultivation of the next generation of leaders through its alumni. City Year is committed to using data, research and evaluations to help us measure and understand our impact, identify best practices and inform its approach to improving outcomes for students.

AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps engages more than 80,000 Americans in intensive service each year at 21,600 unique sites including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. Since the program’s founding in 1994, more than 1 million AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1.4 billion hours in service across America while tackling pressing problems and mobilizing more than 2.3 million volunteers for the organizations they serve.

Buttermilk and Bourbon

Nationally recognized chef Jason Santos’ Buttermilk and Bourbon delivers Southern hospitality to guests in the heart of the Back Bay. Drawing on the South’s trademark charm, the restaurant offers a vibrant, cozy atmosphere with an innovative American menu featuring Southern-influences. Santos, who currently owns and operates Boston’s Abby Lane and Back Bay Harry’s, channels his love of New Orleans and all things Southern to transport guests to the Bayou by way of Buttermilk & Bourbon.

Voices for National Service coalition

We are a coalition of organizations that believe citizens are central to solving the problems facing their communities. Together, we urge leaders in Washington and around the country to expand national service, a vital resource for strengthening communities and the nation.

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