Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What I hope Obama's call to service will mean

President Obama's call for responsibility and service alongside a government that does more today was extremely welcome, a sign of liberalism done right:
What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

But a call to action is so very, very much stronger when accompanied by opportunities for action. Which is why I truly and sincerely hope that he'll be significantly expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps and calling on young Americans to devote a year or two of their lives to one of those organizations, or the military. It's part of his "agenda" on the new whitehouse.gov (there's a whole section called "service") and to me it's the most important item in there.

I believe really passionately from having served in AmeriCorps that it's an example of government at its best: providing the infrastructure and organization for Americans to solve our problems together through service. It not only gets things done, but it instills many of the most important values democratic citizens need.

For me, the ideal would be mandatory, universal national service. We could do so much good in our country and around the world and bring our nation together in a way we haven't seen since World War II if every one of us shared the difficult, frustrating and rewarding experience of serving our nation.

That's not going to happen anytime soon, so at least I hope the new administration will fulfill its service agenda and that the new president will specifically call on people to join AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps or the military. Without those opportunities and calls to action, we end up with Obama at his worst: eloquent words expressing important values that result in nothing beyond people feeling better.

1 comment:

nationville.com said...

Thanks Ben, and a special thanks for the piece you did last year for KCRW: "Why are hardcore video gamers so sensitive." Wonderful opening, coudn't stop laughing.
Happy 2009.