Volunteerism isn’t just a noble act, it’s imperative to our national priorities -- or so says First Lady Michelle Obama. She rolled up her sleeves Monday and helped put the finishing touches on a play structure in the Bret Harte Elementary School playground in San Francisco, which has been entirely constructed through dedicated community volunteers.

The playground appearance kicked off the United We Serve initiative, the administration’s plan to organize service projects throughout the summer. It will run until Sept. 11, which will be a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Obama announced the plan at the playground alongside California First Lady Maria Shriver, who commended the Obama family for their dedication to public service.

"If Michelle Obama and her family and her husband can find time to serve, there is no excuse for anybody else who says they are too busy," said Shriver, as she introduced Obama. "You don't have to be a first lady to make a difference; you just have to be a compassionate, caring human being."

Obama reiterated the importance of service Monday evening when she served as keynote speaker at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, which drew more than 4,000 volunteer and service leaders from around the world and included such luminaries as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, singer Jon Bon Jovi and actor Matthew McConaughey.

"We have an administration that understands that service is the key to achieving our national priorities,” Obama told the audience. "For far too long, we've viewed service in our communities as largely separate from our policies in government."

For more information about service projects in your area this summer, visit the United We Serve Web site at www.serve.gov.

(Michelle Obama photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images)

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd of Tonic. For more latest news on good news, visit Tonic.com.

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