A simple word. But very powerful when put into action.

I saw that recently. I was part of something last week that I’ll remember for a long time. It gave me confidence that in a world awash with $130 a barrel oil, killer tomatoes, natural disasters, and financial meltdowns … there is hope. The hope I saw was in the commitment of young people to the notion of service.

First, a word about service, brands, and business. Folks have heard me say more than once that customer service is the new brand marketing. I didn’t think this up. Others did. And their argument is compelling. Great service can overcome obstacles, mask material and technology shortcomings, and cover up blemishes better than any cosmetic.

Ritz Carlton. Southwest. Starbucks. It is not the glitz or pr or marcom that built their following. It was the fact that their people were so nice, that they treated me so well, that they were there to serve.

So serving for the commercial cause is a good thing.

But serving for the cause of the community, for the cause of a nation, for the cause of society … well, there’s nothing that matches that.

Last weekend I had the priveledge of being led by a young 22-year-old named Aisha at a public service event in Boston. It was City Year’s annual Boston Serve-a-thon … one day where literally thousands of volunteers fanned out across the city to clean up parks, refurbish day care facilities, rehabilitate shelters. I was part of a group of 200+ from Omnicom. And I was proud of my company’s contribution.

But I was absolutely blown away by Aisha and her City Year twenty-something compatriots. They believed in changing the world through service. They worked hard. They loved nothing more than giving back to the community. They had an earnest passion that you could feel. It gave you goose bumps.

Check out Jess’ story from City Year Philadelphia.

These kids were realists AND optimists. They understood that nothing comes free. And that to serve is the best way to receive. Thanks, Aisha and Jess and Lawrence and all those other twentysomethings who are dedicating one or two years of their life to service through City Year.

You are a great generation. And you will serve this country well. And we’ll all be better off for it.

You give us hope.