JON BON JOVI / Remarks
NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON VOLUNTEERING AND SERVICE
THURSDAY, AUGUST 4, 2005
WASHINGTON CONVENTION CENTER, Washington, D.C.
Introduction by Marcia Bullard, CEO/President of USA WEEKEND:
Our next guest is very special, and we are so pleased that he decided to join us at this conference. Many of you know him as the very talented and popular rock star who has entertained people around the world since the 1980’s, Jon Bon Jovi.
The band that carries his name BON JOVI as you probably don’t need to be told has sold more than 100 million records and played before more than 32 million fans worldwide. Jon and Bon Jovi has a new album this fall and a new world tour. But you’ll get to see him first this year. And he’s on the cover of the USA WEEKEND issue in your goodie bags.
What you may not know, is that this nice guy from New Jersey has a long history of giving back to his community especially to New Jersey, and to nearby Philadelphia. If you’re from Philadelphia, you might know him as the owner of the Philadelphia Soul, an Arena Football league with a deep commitment to the community. The team and Jon himself visit hospitals, schools and raise money for charity. Through Jon’s partnership with Samsung’s Four Seasons of Hope charity, the Philadelphia Soul donated $200,000 to Philadelphia charities focused on AIDS, troubled children and the Police Athletic League and that was in just in one year in Philadelphia
My daughter’s first rock concert, I have to tell you, was to see Bon Jovi, at the old cap center, for those of you who are from here before it started taking on corporate names. (Laughter.)
My daughter loves Bon Jovi’s music and his good looks. I, on the other hand, simply admire him for his good works. (laughter) Please join me in giving a big welcome to a rock star who is making a difference to those in need, the one and only Jon Bon Jovi!
JON BON JOVI:
Thank you. It’s nice to see someone like Marcia reduced to being another squealing girl. (Laughter.)
I’d like to thank everybody for giving me the opportunity to be here today. I’ve been scared witless for the last two nights, thinking about what it was that I was going to say. And unlike anyone else, I haven’t got a word printed up here [points to the teleprompter screens] (Laughter.)
But as you know I was asked to speak to you today on volunteerism. And I believe that volunteerism is, in fact, the cornerstone of community. And in my second home, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I am the co owner of the Philadelphia Soul, of the Arena Football League, you may scoff and say “well, it’s not the NFL.” You’re right. (Laughter.)
I’ll tell you why I got involved in it, what it’s done and why I’m here to applaud all of you who volunteer. You see, I found something, for me, a way to give back to people who have given so much to me in the last 20 years. See, I’m a football fanatic. I really do love the game. And a friend of mine broached the subject one evening while I was traveling. He told me about the Arena Football League. And what appealed to me about this game (it’s played indoors, post the NFL season) was that it was a fan friendly game. And it was comprised greatly of players both on their way up and down from “the dream” which, in this day and age is, in fact, the NFL.
What appealed to me on a number of levels was the idea that these guys, given the opportunity, could be role models. When we consider our sports heroes these days as role models, I think it comes into question. Today’s papers with steroid abuse… you have star players showing up 30 minutes before playoff games… you have others complaining about a $9 million annual check because he didn’t get $10 million. It doesn’t make for great role models for my children or your children. What appealed to me about these athletes who were going to be broadcast on network television every Sunday was the idea that if I surrounded myself with true quality men, they could represent the community in a way that it hadn’t been represented in quite a long time. Also, what appealed to me was the idea that the working class man and woman had an opportunity to be involved in something affordable that they could share with their family, and participate in, if you will, because it’s such a live action game. And then perhaps look at these guys’ as some day being role models.
I went to an AFL owners’ meeting with our sponsors in Las Vegas and there was a man from a very big company who took the podium and said “these guys will never be on the box of Wheaties.”
I couldn’t wait to get up on the stage and say, “these are EXACTLY the guys I want on the box of Wheaties.” (applause) “These are the guys that I want to inspire (Applause.) the community.”
So before we played a down, before we sold a ticket, I went to find sponsors. And I know some of you here today have your hands on the corporate checkbooks which finance so much of the community activity that volunteerism relies on. I went to Samsung and I asked them initially for sports sponsorship, which they weren’t inclined to become involved in, and I understood. I said I have a bigger idea. “I don’t want this for me. What I want you to do is give me the opportunity to distribute this to charities that we see fit.”
So in our first year, we distributed $200,000. In our second year, we did the same. We’re only two and a half years old. I hope to continue to grow this. But what it allows me to do is to play Robin Hood. If I hear of a charity that’s in need, I volunteer. I volunteer not only my time, my organization’s time, but our efforts to raise money.
Now, not all of you are going to have the opportunity to have a camera in your face so that you can get that word out there. Not all of you are going to have the opportunity to be on television preaching about how wonderful it is to give back to the community. But as I performed most recently at the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia, and we were talking about (Applause.) thank you helping fulfill Bob Geldof’s dream, as well as doing an incredible job raising awareness that the G8 took advantage of at that time, I was quick to turn the camera on our community, what was happening in South Jersey, what was happening in Philadelphia.
And it was wonderful and heartwarming for me. I have experienced so many things in my life, so many great adrenaline rushes. I’m a rock and roll star, for goodness sakes!! (Laughter.)
I remember playing the Cap Center. That’s how great it is. Because now I could tell you I play MCI. I’ve done all it. I’ve done it all. I got more of a rush when I went to the Northern Home for Children in North Philly and said “why don’t you have a great playground? I’ll build you a playground.” And we built a playground.
When you do that and you get people to volunteer their time, their money, their resources… it builds. I then put that playground on MTV’s Real World, for those of you who are familiar with that show. And they, in turn, had people calling and wanting to help and donate money and donate goods to the Northern Home for Children. You see, you don’t need the cameras. You can start a revolution one soul at a time in your community.
I found something that I loved and made it mine. I realized how I could multiply the goodness that it was giving me by 10 by giving back to the community. And, in turn, I think we’re doing some good.
I’ll leave you with this one thing because I know that the folks are here, and I want to take advantage of this opportunity because I want to put some corporate people’s feet to the fire back in New York. But ultimately, Habitat for Humanity, I really believe, does a lot of good work. (Applause.)
Now that I’m in the off season of football and heading back to a touring cycle, which is what we call it in the record business, instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money making a video for my second single, we’re going to use the funds and build housing for four families in Philadelphia. (Applause.)
What I hope to do is get the word out there that volunteerism is hip. In fact, I’m going to start a saying. I want volunteerism to be the new black. (Laughter.)
I want people to do good and to feel good and to lead by example. I’m here to put myself on the line and say it’s my pledge to all of you who give so much, so selflessly to others and don’t get the accolades or the opportunity to speak that I won’t let you down and we won’t let you down. And thank you for all your good work, because that is what’s going to make the world go around for the next generation. Thank you and good day.