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Service in the National Interest

December 8, 2017

Click the image above to get an overview of the state impact of the work of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

 

In response to a widely shared sense of unnecessary and progress-weakening division among Americans, many of you whom I had the opportunity to interview suggested that a more robust national service culture and mechanism could narrow the divide. Two key dimensions that you mentioned were the urban/rural divide, and the "flyover" divide between coastal and inland populations.

 

At the root of the insight was a strong sense that Americans need to re-establish empathy toward one another, an enlivened sense that our principles and opinions are often informed by lived experience. And in order to stop yelling at each other over policy options, we should be taking the time to understand what its like to walk in each others' shoes.

 

A recent piece by the Brookings Institution brings your insights into focus: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/11/30/its-time-to-make-national-service-a-universal-commitment/

 

The article is in part motivated by budgetary pressures facing the Corporation for National and Community Service, which manages service programs like AmeriCorps. Because the largest benefit accrues to college aspirants, the program has limited appeal - though it currently receives many more applications than it can place each year.

 

Interestingly, what this and articles such as a response published in the Huffington Post don't seem to acknowledge is that national service can be a great way for older Americans to reconnect with their nation as well - especially at a time in life when cynicism, disconnection and division can settle in:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/everyone-should-serve_us_5a26c751e4b0e383e63c3ce0

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