Building the USA–One Citizen at a Time

At a recent dinner party, a ninety-two-year-old Friend stated that she was going to write to newly elected President Obama.   After much thought, she has reached the conclusion that all United States citizens could better themselves and their country by serving a two-year period of National Service.

President Barack Obama meets with Senator Kenn...

President Barack Obama meets with Senator Kennedy and former President Clinton to discuss national service. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From ages 18-20 (after high school and before college) each person would elect where he or she wanted to serve.  It could be in the military or it could be in service to the United States.  The first 2-4 months would be spent in “boot camp” learning about community building and receiving education in the areas that individuals selected.

Here are a few ideas that passed around the dining table:

  • Teacher’s aides in schools, day cares, Head Start, etc.
  • Gardening in urban areas.
  • Drivers for the elderly or impoverished.
  • Assistants for the house-bound.
  • Work crews for parks and natural areas.
  • Recreation coaches for needy communities.
  • Animal care takers working in humane societies/rescue groups.
  • Crisis clean-up/relief workers for storm-related disasters.
  • Working with immigrants to improve skills and language.
  • Having communities determine their need and propose a program that would use National Service volunteers to implement it.

After watching and listening to the divisions within our country, my Friend highly recommended that we assign each National Service volunteer to an area far from his or her  home.  By living and working in a totally different environment, we would achieve greater respect for each other and gradually begin to build an understanding of the why we have our beliefs and could personally challenge individual beliefs without risking alienation from community.

Besides the intrinsic rewards of helping others, each National Service volunteer would be given a voucher for 2 years of college/trade school expenses paid (within specified limits).  This would help to defray expenses while encouraging all volunteers to continue on with their education and skill levels.

How to pay for this National Service?  One percent of all tax monies to go directly into National Service.  Plus, a determined percentage of money given for political elections would be placed directly into National Service fund.  National Service Volunteers would be carried on their parent’s medical insurance plan.

How to supervise this National Service program?  Retired adults would volunteer their time and skills in their own communities to teach the young volunteers.  National Service is akin to participating fully as a citizen of the United States.  Everyone is needed and has value.  Think of all our young military no longer in the military and needing jobs–with skills learned in the military for community-building.  What an asset to have these men and women throughout the country to help build and teach about National Service.

There is no opting out of National Service.  This is the Peace Corps, the military, AmeriCorps, and Vista all wrapped up into one.  Only 18-20 year old parents would be given the option of working from their community in a reduced capacity (so as not to separate children from their parents).  Ideally, we could work to achieve the ability for disabled persons to be able to contribute.

I am in awe of my Friend, who is so determined to continue to contribute to your community and her country.  She has such grace, wit and spirit.

Be gentle with all those who  have ideas and are marching to that different drummer.


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2 Responses to Building the USA–One Citizen at a Time

  1. gold account says:

    On July 24, 2012, Governor Gregoire selected Debbie Schuffenhauer as the next Executive Director of the Washington Commission for National and Community Service. Those who have worked with Debbie know of her strong commitment to service and volunteerism, which began in 1989 with the Washington Service Corps program. Most recently, Schuffenhauer served as Associate Director of WCNCS where she played a key role in supporting the state’s national service infrastructure by helping administer more than $17 million in federal funds to support 1,500 AmeriCorps members throughout Washington State.

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