AmeriCorps member Loretta Coleman, left, with Rep. Tammy Duckworth (Photo Credit: The office of Rep. Tammy Duckworth).
*The original version of this article appeared on ServiceNation.
Last Tuesday marked President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) chose to invite Loretta Coleman, an AmeriCorps member and Air Force veteran, to attend as her guest. We spoke with Duckworth and Loretta about their experience at the State of the Union, why Loretta was chosen to attend, and what they thought about Obama’s speech:
ServiceNation: Rep. Duckworth, why did you choose to highlight national service this year with your State of the Union guest?
TD: Among America’s best qualities — one that has helped our nation become a global superpower — is our unwavering commitment to helping others. Throughout my life, I’ve seen the impact selflessness and service can have on our communities and those around us. I have tried my best to give back what I can to my nation that has given me so much and am proud to be a champion in Congress for national service.
ServiceNation: Being invited to the State of the Union is a huge honor. Why did you choose to bring Loretta this year?
TD: When I imagine what our world might look like if we each showed the same dedication to serving others as Loretta Coleman has, it gives me hope for our future. Her story is a powerful reminder that serving one’s country is not limited to those in uniform, and I commend her for continuing to serve our nation as a civilian with AmeriCorps.
ServiceNation: Loretta, how did you first find out that Rep. Duckworth invited you to attend and what was your first reaction?
LC: Although I was contacted about the possibility of attending as her guest on December 30th, I did not actually find out I was going until this past Wednesday. The call from the Congresswoman’s office was quite a surprise. I could not believe I was getting this chance of a lifetime to attend such a momentous and historic event.
ServiceNation: Loretta, how did you end up serving with AmeriCorps after your 10-year career in the Armed Forces?
LC: I actually heard about AmeriCorps from a fellow veteran a couple of years ago. From the way he described it, there was a great opportunity to transition into a different career. Although I have had various types of positions, I had the opportunity to work very closely with veterans facilitating peer support. I have wanted to get back to working with veterans for quite some time. I see it as an opportunity to continue my service and help meet the needs of my fellow veterans.
ServiceNation: Loretta, was there anything that the president said at the State of the Union that struck you personally?
LC: While I found many points in the president’s speech inspiring and encouraging, I was particularly captured by his remarks on our “obligations as citizens.” He reminded us that it is not just the responsibility of politicians to work to keep the nation strong, but each of our responsibilities as well. He noted that he sees Americans committed to service and how this is how we show the best of what America is as a country. I feel that this is why it is so important to work within our communities in any way we can. We can all contribute something and I plan to continue a life of service in some capacity, for as long as I am able.