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Obama, McCain speak on national service

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) (R), Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (C) and his wife Cindy McCain pause for a moment of silence at the site of the former twin towers, on the seventh anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, in New York September 11, 2008. (UPI Photo/Peter Foley/POOL)
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) (R), Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (C) and his wife Cindy McCain pause for a moment of silence at the site of the former twin towers, on the seventh anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, in New York September 11, 2008. (UPI Photo/Peter Foley/POOL) | License Photo

NEW YORK, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. presidential rivals Barack Obama and John McCain promoted volunteer service Thursday in a forum at New York's Columbia University.

Obama, the Democratic nominee, said his views on national service don't really differ from those of McCain, the Republican nominee.

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"America is the greatest country on Earth but it didn't just happen on its own," Obama said. "What has built this country is people who participate in public service that extend beyond our immediate self interest."

Appearing earlier in the forum, McCain said national service is the best way to honor those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The Arizona senator said national service is a way to forge national unity and inspire Americans.

Saying 87 percent of Americans are "frustrated" with the government, McCain said "this is an opportunity ... to ask for more service" to the nation.

He said the wellspring of national service that followed the terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon has gradually eroded.

"We weren't Republicans on Sept. 11. We weren't Democrats. We were Americans," McCain said. "This is an opportunity to lead the nation and talk to the American people and reform our government and ask for more service."

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