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John Gardner - Empowering Communities
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Empowering Communities timeline: 1912 - 1940
"Our tradition of voluntary association is still vital. And its vitality is rooted in good soil -- civic pride, compassion, spiritual commitments, a sense of individual responsibility and, whatever cynics may say, a commitment to the great shared effort to improve our life together and to ensure a good future for our children and our children's children."
John Gardner, 1979 speech
In 1978, when John Gardner was 66 (an age at which most people are ready to retire), Gardner left Common Cause to become chairman of the Commission on White House Fellowships. Two years later, he co-founded Independent Sector, an organization to help coordinate and advocate for the vast array of non-profit groups -- from churches to schools, hospitals to neighborhood associations. Having just left as chairman of Common Cause, Gardner recognized the power of non-profit groups to help communities from the grassroots up. Independent Sector would become a coalition of 800 corporate, foundation, and voluntary organizations that encourage giving and volunteering in America.

Some of the groups inspired by Gardner's call to civic action include Positive Coaching Alliance, an organization committed to making sports an enriching experience for children, and the Experience Corps, a group that mobilizes older Americans to volunteer their time to mentor students.

Video clip  Video from the film:Gardner and Community Organizations

more information  Learn more about Gardner's Groups: The Experience Corps and Positive Coaching Alliance

With a lifetime of observing leadership from the Oval Office to the offices of small community organizations, Gardner set out to collect his thoughts on the topic. In 1990, Gardner published "On Leadership," a book that examined leadership's importance and how to effectively exercise it. Gardner believed that leadership must bloom from the grassroots of society, and indeed, his own life was an example of that belief.

more information  Learn more about On Leadership

A Son of the West | Call to Action | Education and Excellence
Engineer of the Great Society | Tackling the Problems of Urban America
Common Cause | Empowering Communities


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timeline legend
1978 Gardner is named chairman of the Commission on White House Fellowships
1980 Ronald Reagan elected President
  John Gardner co-founds Independent Sector
  In reaction to mood of the nation after the crisis of the past decade, John Gardner publishes "Morale"
1989 John Gardner returns to California to take the Haas Professorship in Public Service at Stanford University
1989 President Bush creates the Office of National Service in the White House and the Points of Light Foundation to foster volunteering
1990 John Gardner writes "On Leadership"
1990 Congress passes the National and Community Service Act creating demonstration grants to youth corps, non-profits and colleges and universities
1993 President Bill Clinton signs the National and Community Service Trust Act, creating the Corporation for National Service and Americorps to expand opportunities for Americans to serve their communities
1995 John Gardner publishes booklet, "National Renewal," which includes his thoughts on innovative programs in cities across the country
  Gardner co-founds the Experience Corps
1996 Gardner steps down after two years as chair of National Civic League
2001 Gardner receives lifetime achievement awards from Common Cause and Points of Light Foundation
2002 On February 16, John Gardner dies from complications related to cancer, at his home on the campus of Stanford University.