Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Road to Work Camp

The recent push for national civilian service began during the aftermath of 9/11. In October of 2001--perhaps in justifying the "Call to Service Act" of 2001--One U.S. Senator wrote these words:

"...causes are all around us. Thousands of schools in our poorest neighborhoods are failing their students and cry out for talented teachers. Millions of elderly Americans desperately want to stay in their homes and out of nursing facilities, but cannot do so without help with the small tasks of daily life. More and more of our communities are being devastated by natural disasters. And our men and women in uniform are stretched thin meeting the vital task of keeping the peace in places like Bosnia and Kosovo.

"I believe AmeriCorps needs to be expanded and changed, in ways that do not alter those aspects of the program that make it effective, but that build greater espirit de corps among members and encourage a sense of national unity and mission. There is no doubt that this can be done because some smaller programs within AmeriCorps are already doing it. One example is City Year, an AmeriCorps effort that began in Boston and is now operating in 13 American cities. City Year members wear uniforms, work in teams, learn public speaking skills, and gather together for daily calisthenics, often in highly public places such as in front of city hall. They also provide vital services, such as organizing after-school activities and helping the elderly in assisted-living facilities. Another example is AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps, a service program consciously structured along military lines. NCCC members not only wear uniforms and work in teams, as City Year members do, but actually live together in barracks on former military bases, and are deployed to service projects far from their home base. This "24/7" experience fosters group cohesion and a sense of mission. AmeriCorps' NCCC members know they are part of a national effort to serve their country. The communities they serve know that, too."

"Only about 1,000 of AmeriCorps' 50,000 members are a part of NCCC. City Year accounts for another 1,200. Congress should expand these two programs dramatically, and spread their group-cohesion techniques to other AmeriCorps programs. Indeed, the whole national service enterprise should be expanded, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that every young person who wants to serve can serve. Though this will require significantly more funding, the benefits to our nation will be well worth the investment. At the same time, we must encourage the corporate sector and the philanthropic community to provide funding for national service, with federal challenge grants and other incentives."

Success, wealth, celebrity gained and kept for private interest---these are small things. They make us comfortable, ease the way for our children, and purchase a fleeting regard for our lives, but not the self-respect that, in the end, matters most. Sacrifice for a cause greater than self-interest, however, and you invest your life with the eminence of that cause.
Americans did not fight and win World War II as discrete individuals. Their brave and determined energies were mobilized and empowered by a national government headed by democratically elected leaders. That is how a free society remains free and achieves greatness. National service is a crucial means of making our patriotism real, to the benefit of both ourselves and our country."

These are excerpts from 'Putting the "National" in National Service'...

by John Sidney McCain
what a campaign slogan... "Service"