The saying "Serve the People " originated in China and then was popularized in the United States during the 1960's.
In a speech titled, “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art,” given May 1942, Mao Tse-tung explained,
“The motive of serving the masses is inseparably linked with the effect of winning their approval; the two must be united...”
In this speech, Mao quoted a poem by Lu Hsun, a revolutionary 20th century writer,
“This couplet from a poem by Lu Hsun should be our motto:
Head-bowed, like a willing ox I serve the children.'
The ‘thousand pointing fingers’ are our enemies, and we will never yield to them, no matter how ferocious. The ‘children’ here symbolize the proletariat and the masses. All Communists, all revolutionaries, all revolutionary literary and art workers should learn from the example of Lu Hsun and be oxen for the proletariat and the masses, bending their backs to the task until their dying day.”
Later in September 1944, Mao gave a speech titled, “Serve The People” which coined the well known phrase.
An article in THE BLACK PANTHER newspaper, April 6, 1969 titled, SERVING THE PEOPLE reflected on the Lu Hsun poem and Yenan speech as well. It read,
“The Black Panther Party is a political party established to create revolutionary political power for Black People and is continuing steadily to serve the People heart and soul. . . Our Cardinal Rule is:
‘Have faith in the People, and faith in the Party.’ This faith derives from an undying love for our people and the awareness of a need for governmental eclipse. We, as the vanguard of the oppressed masses, realize that we must and will serve the People heart and soul. The need and wants of the People must be fulfilled, and we, as Huey P. Newton says, shall be like an oxen to be ridden by the People. The exploited and oppressed people's needs are land, bread, housing, education, freedom, clothing, justice and peace and the Black Panther Party shall not, for a single day, alienate ourselves from the masses and forget their needs for survival, but instead institute to the People faith to the death.”