October 09, 2008

Usher at Service Nation

A Chat with R&B Superstar Usher Raymond
By: Kelly Nuxoll

At the Service Nation conference in NYC, I asked Usher, who was speaking about his "I Can't But You Campaign" in which people under 18 register eligible voters, what he considered the connection between service and voting to be.

"A sense of ownership," he answered immediately.

Two of the young people from his program, James Harris, 19, and Arnold Supa France, 17, described their awakening to civic responsibility.

"All the campers had to sit down and watch this loooong video," France said. "But when it was over, my head stood up and my eyes were open."

The video, they said, reiterated that every vote counts, and that every voice needs to be heard.

The more subtle point that France derived, however, was that young people need also to listen. "I hear kids and politicians talking about the same thing, but we're not listening to politicians or paying too much attention to politics. We need to be involved."

Taking initiative -- to vote, to volunteer, to lead -- is at the heart of Usher's philosophy of service. "I think we all need a leader," he said. "But leaders need to lead by example, and not just dictate."

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