Here is what I've learned on the campaign trail: America is at a crossroads… and we all know it. I don't believe the attempts to wage and win culture wars is going to solve the challenges of political tribalism, military recruitment, and ensuring that our rapidly diversifying country remains strong and united. I don't have all the solutions, but we should look at how a National Year of Service could help put America on a stronger and more unifying path as we move deeper into the 21st century.
The time for a national service program has come.
Bringing people together in common cause and on a national scale is not easy but change happens small. Our campaign is the only one in this race casting a vision on how to create long term, structural changes to American life that will help unify the country. At the same time, we are not alone on the issues of national service; other countries do it and there are models we can adopt and fashion into an American centric approach.
What a national service program will achieve.
National Security: Here is an uncomfortable truth politicians are not talking about: our military leadership continues to sound the alarm as recruitment quotas go unmet and threaten the viability of our all-volunteer force. Over time this will create a hollowed out military force and the international order America built will slowly erode. A year of national service would help alleviate the shortage. I'm not calling for a draft. This is about our government affirmatively engaging young people in service to the nation.
National Unity: A cohesive society in a future majority-minority nation will get harder to govern if we don’t find ways to break down stereotypes, misplaced assumptions and political polarization. We have battlefields here at home thus a national service program should be viewed comprehensively to include military service, non-governmental, community-based organizations and other forms of service.
Here is one national service model I could support.
We need political will, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Here is one idea I like by Richard Stengel: "Every time an American baby is born, the Federal Government would invest $5,000 in that child's name at a rate of return of 7% — the historic return for equities — that money would total roughly $19,000 by the time that baby reaches age 20. That money could be accessed later in life on one condition: that he or she commits to at least one year of national service. The money must be used to fund education, start a business or make a down payment on a home. The baby bond would preserve the voluntary nature of the service but offer a strong incentive for young people to sign up for it."