Our politics are deeply divided. Today, one’s political affiliation is about more than who you vote for; it often determines who you label friend and who you label foe. Political affiliation has become a personal identifier, and now many use these ideological identities to justify treating people as enemies.

This phenomenon has created deep divisions in our country, allowing problems to fester and grow while also contributing to an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. In fact, 65% of people say “civility and mutual respect is the worst I have ever seen,” with most U.S. respondents saying our country is “severely polarized.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Among the many effective tools for reducing polarization, perhaps the most powerful, are those that include service and volunteering.

We need to come together again as a nation. Both of us — governors from America’s two major political parties — believe that the best way to inspire unity is by encouraging people to serve. In this time of division, service will save us.

Both of us have experienced the transformative power of service. For a sixth-generation Utahn, service looked like a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico. For the son of an immigrant single mom, service looked like deploying to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. These two distinct opportunities offered us a common foundation.

By working together, we improve our communities. When you’re serving side by side, you build bonds with people who are different from you who you likely wouldn’t have otherwise met. Service is sticky. You develop a deeper understanding of others. And, together, you create a community where everyone can thrive.

Giving back also gives a lot in return: People who serve have the chance to develop new skills, pursue new opportunities and jump-start their careers. In many cases, service can help bridge the gap between education and employment.

In Utah, the No. 1 state for volunteering in the nation, we want to ensure service remains a core part of who we are. We’ve developed a statewide year of service for young adults. We’re requiring service hours for businesses that receive economic incentives. And we’re working with our faith-based communities to drive increased opportunities for all residents.

In Maryland, the Service Year Option makes a year of service available for high school students. The program provides young people with the opportunity to develop skills, solve problems, and gain new perspective and understanding from those they work alongside.

We’re also engaging other governors in Disagree Better, an initiative that brings together people from opposite sides of the aisle to have respectful, honest and healthy discussions. Each of our National Governors Association gatherings this year has had a service project, ensuring that our nation’s leaders have the opportunity to work together on projects bigger than themselves.

We believe that service can change the course of our society, and it has never been more important. Our nation, our democracy, needs everyone to come together — not be further apart. As commentator Charles Cooke recently said, “We should stop teaching our kids to save the world and start teaching them to build their communities.”

This is easier than it sounds, thanks to wonderful organizations that already know the needs in your community. We urge you to join your local Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club or YMCA. Or check out websites like www.pointsoflight.org/volunteer that list available opportunities to serve. You might end up teaching English to refugees, assembling first-aid kits for humanitarian trips or mentoring special needs students.

Those who raise their hands to serve help us address challenges and solve big problems. And service gives people a chance to learn from others and unite around the common goal of dignity and respect — while developing skills that can last a lifetime.


Nearly 35 years ago, President George H.W. Bush founded Points of Light, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with bipartisan support that is dedicated to volunteering and service. He said, “The solution to each problem that confronts us begins with an individual who steps forward and who says, ‘I can help.’” And we need people to help.

President Bush started a movement that has been sustained and deepened by leaders of both parties. And continuing that legacy of service, we are proud to join Points of Light in celebrating April as Global Volunteer Month, a monthlong initiative to celebrate service and volunteerism — and take action around the globe.

Get involved today. Visit pointsoflight.org/volunteer to find thousands of volunteer opportunities and ways to take part in Global Volunteer Month. If you live in Utah, check out https://userve.utah.gov/volunteer/ — and if you want to serve in Maryland, check out serve.maryland.gov.

Spencer Cox, a Republican, is the governor of Utah. Wes Moore, a Democrat, is the governor of Maryland.

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