National Service as Preparatory Program for Democratic Citizenship and Public Service
Retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal makes a worthy argument for the young people in our country… to undergo year-long stints of national service. It is McChrystal’s contention that national service programs would help to support local business communities, form inclusive neighborly bonds, and make the United States a stronger democracy.
The funny thing is, I think about similar programs quite frequently. National service ideas must be floating in the air!
In my patriotic reverie, there is a special service program for prospective political candidates. Each wannabe public servant would need to successfully complete a 2-year term of national service, either in the Peace Corps or with the U.S. Military, as a prerequisite to run for elected office at the federal, state, or local level. An important component of my political preparation model requires that the candidate remain at an entry-level position throughout the full term of service — for the express purpose of experiencing a full range of risks and hardships that front-line workers undergo, as well as to build endurance, respect, and humility.
Life insurance policies would be provided at cost. Discounted health insurance policies would be made accessible. As long as candidates lived a good life for two short years, and if they were careful, they shouldn’t need to rely on either one. Candidates who lose professional momentum in their former career field during the preparatory service term, would be free to pull themselves up by the bootstraps upon completion of the program. In appreciation of candidates’ hard work and high aspirations, boots would be distributed during the official parting ceremony, according to size and a negative urine sample.
Of course, I am only being half-serious. But General McChrystal is fully serious, and has put forth a commendable idea. (Use the link below to read his article.)
So, are the General and I on the right track? I’m so glad you think so!
Going into brainstorm mode now, what are your thoughts about national service programs? How would you design such a program? What objectives and outcomes would you aim for? Instead of youth or political aspirants, might you focus on another demographic, say… retired persons? Or perhaps, identical twins? (They make fascinating case studies.) No answer is right or wrong — be creative.
If we put our heads together, we can foster the citizenry, and the leadership, that is worthy of democracy.
“America needs a restart. It has long devoted its energies to solving its many big problems — unequal opportunity, crumbling infrastructure, lagging education, inadequate training in a changing economy and threats to peace around the world. But it has done so with tired methods. Simply doing more or less of what we have done in the past will not fix what the United States faces. Every solution requires more than another budget negotiation or Facebook post. Each also requires trust and consensus — the hard and disappearing work of democracy…” ~ Stanley McChrystal
From Sea to Shining Sea