Jon Bon Jovi has a concert at Toyota Center Tuesday, but he came to Houston a day early to do some voluntary community-service work for the President. It was not the type of community service that required shirtless physical labor - unfortunately - but more along the lines of clothed community conversations.
President Obama asked the New Jersey rocker to participate in The White House Council for Community Solutions in December of 2010 and since then, he has visited New Orleans, Atlanta, and now Houston. The council is focused on education, youth development and employment on local levels.
Bon Jovi, along with 24 other members, visits neighborhood organizations in order to examine the ways that communities implement change through their youth. The council has been instructed to gather up information from their discussions in each community and meet back in Washington, D.C., to evaluate the information.
"I was the only person from the entertainment business that the President asked to take part in this Council for Community Solutions. The President's directive was simple: Show me organizations that are working and bring back results," Bon Jovi said. "They're very aware that this demographic is going to be in need of jobs and education."
Bon Jovi and Mayor Annise Parker held the youth round table meeting at SEARCH Homeless Services in Midtown. The two sat down with the young adults that SEARCH serves, as well as kids from Goodwill Houston, Community in Schools and Gulf Coast Trades Center.
Parker reflected on the importance of holding a forum with the young adults helped by SEARCH, and giving them a chance to talk about their situations together as a group.
"As many of you know, I have three kids who came from foster care and tough situations. They don't want to listen to their parents, but they will listen to their peers," Parker half-laughed. "We really need a network of peer-to-peer communication."
Bon Jovi added that he could remember a time earlier in his career when he thought that the youth of America seemed relatively optimistic; but since personally meeting and speaking with a new generation of kids, he has noticed a shift in formative hopefulness.
"I think I've made my own reputation over the last three decades of optimism and the belief in oneself. I'm starting to see now that kids are believing in themselves again and are more inter-dependant on each other than on what their parents did before them," he said.
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It seemed like all eyes were on the bronzed, radiant musician as he took time to sign autographs for the kids, as well as some mesmerized adult women, but he remained almost demure about his role in solving the pressing issues that at-risk youth face in the current economic environment.
"Part of who I am is giving back," Bon Jovi said. "We don't need a scientist to create a cure - we can fact-find, we can make a difference, we can implement change."