Today’s guest post is the first in our AmeriCorps Alums Founders Club series and comes to us from Brad Meltzer’s 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps speech with Volunteer Florida. Brad is the #1 New York Times bestselling thriller writer of The Inner Circle, and the host of Lost History on H2. His non-fiction children’s book include I Am Amelia Earhart, I Am Abraham Lincoln, and I Am Rosa Parks. Find more about him at BradMeltzer.com and @BradMeltzer.
When I was 24, I thought I was invincible.
When I was 24, I was dating the most beautiful girl at Harvard. (I knew her before Harvard. She was my high school sweetheart. Now she’s my wife.)
When I was 24, I had $30,000 in outstanding student loans.
When I was 24, I wanted to direct movies (I had just seen this new movie Pulp Fiction); I wanted to meet JFK (I had just seen Forrest Gump); and I wanted to go to prison (Shawshank Redemption.) It was a good year for movies.
When I was 24, I wanted to write novels.
Brad speaks at Volunteer Florida’s 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps event. (Photo Credit: Volunteer Florida)
When I was 24, my mom hadn’t died from breast cancer.
When I was 24, my dad hadn’t died from heart disease.
When I was 24, I wanted to vote for Nelson Mandela, who that year was elected the first black president of South Africa.
When I was 24, I didn’t care what anyone thought about me. Unless it hurt.
When I was 24, I never filled my car up all the way at a gas station in order to save money.
When I was 24, I got 24 rejection letters on my first novel. And when I was 24, I said, “I don’t care. If they didn’t like that book, I’ll write another. And if they don’t like that one, I’ll write another.” A week later, I started on my second novel, The Tenth Justice. That one actually sold.
When I was 24, I had a full head of hair.
Brad Meltzer and Volunteer Florida staffer Ericka McKibben (Photo Credit: Volunteer Florida)
When I was 24, I volunteered for a service day put on by this organization called City Year.
When I was 24, I firmly believed that anything was possible.
When I was 24, a man named Eli Segal—my mentor—asked me to co-write an oath for this brand new organization they were calling AmeriCorps. It’s the oath that’s still taken today. To this day, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of working on.
When I was 24, I had no idea that I would watch the words I wrote come out of the mouths of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
When I was 24, my favorite line of the oath was this one: “Where there is adversity, I will persevere.” It was strong. It was defiant. It never quit.
Today, 20 years later, I love the next line just as much: “I will carry this commitment with me, this year and beyond.”
Back then, it was a hope. Today, it’s a reality.
Happy 20th birthday, AmeriCorps. I owe you forever for what you gave me. And I owe Eli even more.