Bridgeland and Khazei Advance New Proposal for Comprehensive National Service

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June 19, 2013; Politico


John Bridgeland was George Bush’s director of the Domestic Policy Council and the originator of FreedomCorps, which was meant to encourage volunteers in homeland security activities. Alan Khazei was the founder of City Year and, recently, the unsuccessful Democratic primary challenger to Elizabeth Warren for the Massachusetts senate seat. Together, they have joined forces to promote the idea of an expected, though not mandatory, “period of full-time national service as a rite of passage for every young American, ages 18 to 28.” In their vision, “[y]oung adults could choose the Army or Peace Corps, Marine Corps or AmeriCorps, the Navy or VISTA.”

If it weren’t mandatory, how would this expected national service be institutionalized? Bridgeland and Khazei have a number of ideas, ranging from cultural behavior to federal policy. For example, they suggest that all college admissions officers and all corporate employers should ask applicants “where did you serve,” though one wonders if the answer “where” rather than “whether” might lead to different recruitment decisions. On policy, Bridgeland and Khazei recommend that “[t]he president…challenge every federal department and agency to use national service members to meet their missions, as the new FEMA Corps, School Turnaround AmeriCorps and STEM AmeriCorps programs are doing today,” though one might ask how the increased use of unpaid or stipended volunteers in federal agencies would go down with the unions representing full-time government employees, who see their jobs as sources of both public service and family sustenance. They also recommend the creation of a “Veterans Corps,” based on the ability of veterans “to use GI Bill benefits to support up to a year of service.”

As recommendations to “democratize” national service, they make two suggestions: “Every college and nonprofit should sign up and unlock more resources from the private sector to support positions. And Kickstarter could allow any American to support a young person who wants to give a year to our country.” They aren’t specific regarding the meaning of “democratizing” service, but one possible interpretation might be that the socioeconomic profiles of participants in AmeriCorps, for example, and in some service entities such as Teach for America, tend to be a notch higher than most Americans. The AmeriCorps stipends they receive are generally below living wage, hovering around minimum wage or less on a full-time basis. Young people from relatively affluent families can live on an optional year or two of AmeriCorps-level stipends, but others might find that extraordinarily difficult or impossible.

Khazei and Bridgeland have joined not only to co-author a Politico op-ed, but to co-chair the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, with the mission “to marshal the best case for a voluntary civilian counterpart to military service in the United States.” Although we haven’t yet seen it, the Franklin Project promised a Franklin Project Action Plan of specific policy proposals to be released at a summit that just happened this week.

The two authors are clearly apostles of national service. Bridgeland, for example, has even written about national service as a means to help deal with the nation’s unemployment problem, suggesting that a doubling of national service would “put a half million unemployed youth into productive work immediately.” The notion of fighting unemployment with service jobs at minimum wage or lower struck some people as a less than robust response. They and national service will both be better served if they temper their enthusiastic advocacy and the Action Plan’s policy recommendations with a strong dose of pragmatism about what will work not only for young people participating in national service, but for the nonprofits that often provide national service opportunities.—Rick Cohen

  • joseph oese

    let us ge started

  • Peter Jesella

    Leveraging Selective Service System registration requirement into Civic-Service-Wake-Up Call? Why Not!
    I have created a tiny link for News challenge Contribution through Google. equals
    National Service USA is a website that will document U.S. institutions, their leader’s replies, views towards leveraging the registration requirement of the Selective Service System into a 1-year social media chat on the values of citizenship service.

    Photo Descriptions: Close encounters, examples of institutional leaders, who have provided no documented replies towards transforming idea of leveraging Federal Selective Service System into a catalyst for thriving, informed, and engaged 18 year-old citizens. My web platform seeks to encourage and document these replies in a nuanced user-friendly database, with the interactive means for viewers to become active citizens engaged in encouraging future documented replies from U.S. institutions and their leaders. is a database website that seeks to document U.S. institutions, their leader’s replies, perspectives, past-present-&-future to a former legislative bill to leverage the registration requirement of the Selective Service System into a 1-year dialogue between 18th and 19th birthdays on the values of performing contracted community or military service, unpaid part-time volunteerism, or nothing; with basic feedback requirements at 19 of yes, no or maybe.
    01–9/17/09-Michael Moore, filmmaker -Capitalism: A Love Story, Fahrenheit 9/11- author, social critic, liberal activist & P Jesella
    02–04-Sen Joe Biden at Dem Natl. Conv. got info Natl. Youth Service-no reply, now Vice Pres.
    03–06/19/12-U.S. Chief Technology Officer-Todd Park, got info National Youth Service System impact by leveraging Internet-no reply
    04–07/28/09-CWC-Tim O’Reilly-O’Reilly Media & Jimmy Wales-founder Wikipedia, got info National Youth Service idea, no reply to P.J.
    05–12/06/12 Jill Abramson, Ex. Editor New York Times, Peter Jesella at Commonwealth Club of CA Jill accepted 30-pages of docs.
    06–02/22/12-Thomas Donohue-Pres & CEO US Chamber of Commerce-DC-got cover letter asking support for Natl Service debate-no reply PJ
    07–6/20/09 Arianna Huffington journalist, entrepreneur& Peter Jesella, Craigslist Boot Camp U.C. Berkeley, no reply to policy idea
    08–1/28/09 Gwen Ifill Editor& Host-Washington Week; Sr. Correspondent-The Newshour, & Author, with Peter Jesella, Time Mag 9/18/07
    09–4/12/10 Mark Halperin, Sr. political analyst for Time magazine,, and MSNBC with Peter Jesella at U.C. Berkeley lecture
    10–05/07/12-Ellen S Miller co-founder & Ex. Dir. Sunlight Foundation, in SF @ CfA, got National Youth Service proposal, no reply-PJ
    11–05/07/12-Jennifer Pahika-Code for America-Ex. Dir. & Tom Steinberg-mySociety Dir. in UK; got info Natl. Service, no reply to PJ
    12–06/12/12-Joseph Stiglitz, at WAC-SFO, 2001 Nobel Prize Econ. Sci. & founded Initiative for Policy Dialogue, no reply-2nd time PJ
    13–09/08/11-Bill Mckibben, activist au “earth” & Paul Hawken au “Blessed Unrest”; got info National Youth Service-no replies to PJ
    14–3/21/13-@CWC-Design Thinking-Tim Brown IDEO, got info on Natl. Youth Service, Knight News proposal & ? on OpenIDEO crash on 3/18
    15–4/1/11-Senator Kerry in SFO at Commonwealth Club of CA, currently Sec. of State, accepted PJ’s Natl. Service proposal for ¾ times
    16–9/23/08 -Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Maine Memorial Assoc. SFO & Peter Jesella shared info on N.S. imperative.

  • Conrad Damsgaard

    I think National Sevice should be MANDATORY for ALL youth between ages of 17-21. No exemptions. It would be best if the emplyment would be at least 400 miles from home. I think it would benefit every indiddual that has this experience and could give the young people more time to decide what kind of work they might like to do in the future and try work experiences they have problably never seen before.. All they while serviing their country in a productive way.