The Why: Universal Voluntary Service

Barack Obama & Joe Biden’s Plan for Universal Voluntary Service is not the first thing that comes to mind these days when we think about what the President Elect will do when he comes to Washington.

The material and psychological toll of the deepening economic crisis is spreading. I see more empty storefronts every week.  Even stable businesses–ones who have no plans to reduce staff–are preparing to weather the economic downturn by reevaluating practices and policies, streamlining facilites operations, halting or limiting pay increases, encouraging sabbaticals where appropriate.   And yesterday I received an email from the President of Princeton University, sent to all alumni, denoting how the University, which has a fantastic endowment, is preparing to weather the next few years. Though our family is not materially worse off than we were yesterday (ok, so I’m not checking the 401K funds), this letter significantly worsened the psychological funk associated with the whole economic tailspin.

But I began Raising Generation O because of the promise of involvement in public life that was afforded newly by the Obama/Biden campaign.  And one of the main platforms on which they came to office was the notion of Service–& its necessity in American civic life.    For Barack Obama, Service is not just a word or a notion, but the bedrock of civic life. He began his career as a community worker, and it doesn’t take much to see how this deep involvement in the real issues of real people’s lives informed his campaign and, now, his plan for Universal Voluntary Service, which is a plan to mobilize Americans to greater participation in neighborhood, community, and national civic life.

The full, ambitious, inspiring plan has nothing to do with politics.  Red, blue, liberal, conservative, radical, atheist, believer, young, old–everyone– can participate, and that’s the whole point.    The Plan calls for an expansion of the Peace Corps and Americorps, for a greater integration of service-learning for middle-, high school and college students, for an increase in investment in the nonprofit sector, and some  tax credits and seed money for certain aspects of the Program.  These are things that can happen no matter what comes next financially.  If Bush failed after 9/11 to ask Americans to serve, you can be sure that in the midst of this new, albeit very different crisis, the same mistake will not happen again.

Please read the full plan.  Get ready for what comes next.

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