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Bradley Touts Civic Vitality In City Year Speech

By Orli G. Bahcall
and Shawdee Eshghi

Retiring Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., delivered the keynote address for this year's City Year national convention.

Introducing the senator, a City Year participant said, Bradley knows that "people like you and me are the most powerful resources this country has, that the government can't solve everything, but the people can."

Bradley began the luncheon address to the City Year corps by explaining why "I think what you are doing is so important for the future of our country and for your future."

City Year's work is exemplary in that it tries not only to, "transform society, but to transform yourself in the process -- for when you bring these two together you have incredible power."

The job of youth leaders such as City Year is to "lead the world by the power of example.

Bradley is retiring from the Senate after 26 years of service, 19 as a New Jersey senator.

Individual involvement stressed

Perhaps the strongest message that Bradley delivered was the fact that each individual must have a sense of duty.

"You must realize that no one but you will [try to make a difference]. You have to engage yourselves and each other and learn from your own experiences," he said.

Bradley spoke of his vision of a civil society, beginning with his own life story, speaking of how time and time again, he did not listen to what people told him to do.

"At every phase of my life, people I respect and love wanted me to do something other than [what] I ended up doing, and I found that the important thing is to know your own strengths and weaknesses and to act on that knowledge," because in the end it is you who have to deal with the consequences.

Diversity addressed as main issue

It is unfortunate, Bradley said, that diversity is regarded as more of a problem that must be dealt with than a positive quality to be embraced in America today. He applauded City Year for taking diversity as a positive attribute.

"There is power in our differences," Bradley said. "You are among the few people in this country who have embraced your diversity and have realized that someone a little different from you can enrich your lives."

In order to deal with the issue of race and diversity in our society, Bradley suggests that we look at the example of City Year.

"The beauty of City Year is that you affirmatively embrace each other. What we need in this country to deal with race is greater candor and the recognition that no one else is going to do it for you," he said.

And by doing something to transform participants' ideas into immediate reality and by building something together, City Year brings a diverse community together over community service, Bradley said.