Sunday, January 23, 2005


UNIVERSAL SERVICE is an idea that has been batted around for awhile. My idea is that it is somewhat like the idea of Americorps which is not a bad idea and is an opportunity for America’s youngsters. I don't know where Americorps is in terms of what is going on now. I surely support the concept. Americorps is a program that allows 18-24 year olds to spend a year or two in community service, doing everything from teaching kids to read to shoveling snow for seniors.

Since September 11, especially for awhile we saw a wave of increased interest from young Americans looking for ways to give back and fulfill their roles as citizens. The one who immediately comes to mind is Pat Tillman, the professional football player who gave up millions to serve in the military. He was killed by "friendly fire" in Afghanistan.

At one time, Congress was thinking of expanding Americorp from 5O,OOO to 25O,OOO. The article I read said the Americorps volunteers earn about $93OO a year with about an equal amount as an education benefit. This is not going to make anybody rich but we are talking of service to one's country.

The military could be the same sort of idea and grouped under the Universal Service idea--a year of mandatory community service for all 18 year olds--about 25 million a year, to be inducted into two years minimum compulsory national service. Drafted into a Universal Service with no ands, ifs or buts--AllServe. Not like the old days of the draft when the only ones who ended up in the military were those who couldn't get a deferment, didn't know any influential people or simply couldn't come up with any excuse.

As a country, we would need some innovative minds to figure out how to create and implement a situation where AllServe. We are smart people and can do it. The opposition would be enormous. We have fallen into the trap of thinking that we don't need to have a compulsory service for America's young people. We have the Volunteer Army. Wrong thinking. The Volunteer Army is a far cry from representative Americans.

A major benefit of AllServing is a chance for all young Americans to experience a shared existence. This has not happened since Vietnam and then was a long way from being equitable. Simply, those of privilege often dodged the draft in one form or another. If AllServed, kids from all socio economic backgrounds would have a chance to know each other--doctor's kids would serve right along side carpenter's kids.

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