Boomers, for better or worse, we’ve had our shot. It’s time we ensure that our daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren have at least an equal opportunity to have theirs.
When six million jobs go begging, in large part because our young people do not have the skill sets to fill them … When so many of these same young people, from the ages of 18 to 26, feel disenfranchised from society, do not trust the government, and believe they are being left behind … When many are deeply depressed and turning to deadly drugs and crime as a way out, then we must face the fact that the United States is in the midst of a serious crisis.
In many instances we’ve done a far better job educating our kids to be good consumers than good citizens.
If we are to succeed as a nation in the long run, our young people need to be educated and experienced in what it means to be an American. They must be made to feel that they, like previous generations, have a stake in the long-term well-being of our nation. They need to know that their lives and work are meaningful, and that their futures are bright.
National Service might be a viable answer for achieving these ambitious goals. National Service in the United States has a long tradition, extending to the founding of America. It takes on multiple forms, among them community, international, and military service.
What might a National Service program look like?
Well for one thing, it might include recruitment into the Corporation for National and Community Service organizations like AmeriCorps, Equal Justice Works, Teach for America, and Children’s Corps. Or service in the United States Armed Forces.
Or it could mean a stint in the Peace Corps. Or in a program that resembles the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Roosevelt era. Or serving in a variety of organizations that focus on healthcare, cyber security, cultural anthropology, languages, journalism, and other places where they can learn the skills to thrive in this challenging 21st Century workforce.
In return for their service, participants would receive lodging, uniforms, healthcare, and good allowances, as well as stipends.
Upon completion of two years of service they would be entitled to numerous government incentives, including an education debt reduction or education allowance similar to the GI Bill, and other options to support the national service movement.
The fact is, talent exists everywhere, from the poorest of inner-city neighborhoods to the most remote rural areas of America. What’s most often lacking, however, is opportunity.
A National Service program would serve as a catalyst for opportunities nationwide.
In full disclosure, I am personally involved, along with many others, in trying to get a program such as this off the ground and into the halls of Congress, where we hope our representatives will act in a responsible bipartisan manner to legislate — and fund — such an ambitious effort.
It is a bold undertaking that will require bold commitments to achieve bold outcomes. However, nothing less than the future of our nation — and our kids’ and grandkids’ future — is at stake.