Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal is advocating all young people to perform a year of national service.
In a piece published by Politco
, McChrystal wrote that a year of culturally expected, if not legally required, "challenging, meaningful" national service is "the big idea of our time" and would be mutually beneficial for both young people and the country.
"A young person would perform a year of full-time service between the ages of 18 and 28 and receive a modest stipend," McChrystal wrote.
"As with existing programs such as AmeriCorps, he or she would complete the service year at a host institution: a nonprofit, a university or other institution. The service could be done across a wide array of fields from education to conservation, and it could entail tasks like building homes, serving meals to the elderly or helping veterans transition back to civilian life.
"This would not be a big new government program. Rather, service years would be funded through public-private partnerships enabled by a national service technology platform that would connect young people who want to serve, orga¬nizations that can host them and funders. There wouldn’t be a single top-down program. Rather, everyone would be connected by the common experience of their service year."
McChrystal, a four-star general who led the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq during the Persian Gulf Wars and was top Commander of American forces in Afghanistan, now chairs the Leadership Council of the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project, which promotes national service among American youth.
While society – and the organizations served – would benefit from the service, the greater purpose would be teaching the next generation core values, such as "grit and persistence … the very skills that have been found to predict career success and that employers are seeking," he said.
Most importantly, according to the general, would be a feeling of societal cohesiveness, something America sorely lacks.
"Today, the need for a shared experience of citizenship is more poignant than ever," McChrystal said. "We are drifting apart. Traditional forms of civic participation have atrophied. Our politics lurch from one bitter breakdown to the next while massive issues that affect our national prosperity and security languish unaddressed."
This week, McChrystal’s Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute
convening 300 leaders for a "summit" in Gettysburg, Pa., who are committed to seeing national service become reality.
"The underlying purpose of national service must be to mold better citizens and bind our young people to one another and to the nation," according to McChrystal. "The only way we can transform these ideas into reality is if we get a broad swath of Americans to agree with the fundamental idea that 'everyone should serve for a year.'"
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