National Service

6 Reasons Doing a Service Year Can Change this Country — And You

September 29, 2014

Franklin Project Leadership Council Chair General Stanley McChrystal (far right) and Franklin Project Director Jay Mangone (fifth from left) on stage with our National Service Alliance partners and funders at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative conference

While trust in government is at an all-time low and partisanship often plagues progress, there seems to be one cause around which leaders on both sides of the aisle are uniting: national service. 

The Aspen Institute Franklin Project recently recognized the 13th anniversary of 9/11 and the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps. As part of the 20th anniversary event at the White House, President Barack Obama announced a new initiative called the Employers of National Service before former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, and hundreds of AmeriCorps members.

Employers of National Service is a partnership among the Franklin Project, the Corporation for National Service, the Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps Alums to work with leading employers from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to develop 30,000 new national service positions by 2017. The new coalition also aims to secure 50 higher education institutions and 50 “Employers of National Service” as partners in support of Service Year. 

And at the Clinton Global Initiative’s recent annual conference in New York City, the National Service Alliance (comprised of Voices for National Service, ServiceNation, the National Conference on Citizenship, and the Franklin Project), joined by former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, announced Service Year, a major commitment to expand national service in America by making a year of service a common expectation and opportunity for all 18 to 28 year olds.

The announcement called for the creation of major partnerships across every sector of American life to help shape public thinking, expand AmeriCorps and other Service Year opportunities, drive the expectation of a service year in our culture, and build a pathway from service to both higher education and career opportunities. To make this a reality, Cisco, Lumina Foundation, Comcast, Airbnb, Christy and John Mack, Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine, Josh and Anita Bekenstein, and others have already contributed $11 million in seed funding. 

Some of the country’s most influential military, political, and educational leaders have been quite vocal on calling for a significant ramping up of national service in our country, arguing that doing a service year could help build national resilience while transforming ourselves and strengthening our nation. Below, six leaders share why they believe doing a service year will greatly impact the US and change the lives of the people serving their communities.

Above, watch Franklin Project Founder Gen. Stanley McChrystal with CNN’s Erin Burnett discuss the program’s vision for national service in our country.

“Millennials are problem solvers and they are our nation’s best hope for developing workable solutions to the many challenges facing our communities. Every sector in America has a stake in figuring out how they will take part in and support the service movement.” –Gen. Stanley McChrystal, chair of the Aspen Institute Franklin Project Leadership Council

“If more young people participated in fulltime service programs like AmeriCorps, it would have a transformative impact on our country. Through our work with the National Service Alliance, we seek to accomplish just that. We have proven time and again that we are stronger when we work together and by giving more Americans the opportunity to come together in service, we make our nation stronger.” –Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation 

 “America — with serious divisions at home and serious threats abroad — needs sources of healing, unity, and common purpose. National service is a powerful idea whose time has come.” –Franklin Project Leadership Council Members Condoleezza Rice, former US secretary of state and Bob Gates, former US secretary of defense

“Service is transformative. At its best, it makes people aware of needs around them. It bridges races and classes, diminishing differences in the pursuit of common goals. It demonstrates that difficult national problems can be addressed and overcome by citizen action. It is an antidote to both selfishness and a feeling of social helplessness.” –Madeleine Albright, Aspen Institute trustee and former US secretary of state

“If every young American were expected to dedicate a year of their lives to serving the country in some capacity, imagine how powerful that common experience would be to knit them together as a generation and as the future leaders of a more truly United States of America.” –Franklin Project Leadership Council Member Michele Flournoy, former US under secretary of defense for policy

“This is one cause that can continue to bring both parties together to enable millions of young Americans to serve, innovate, solve problems, build pathways to college credentials and career, and cultivate a lifetime of giving back to their communities.” –Alan Khazei and John Bridgeland, co-chairs of the Franklin Project, and Harris Wofford, senior advisor of the Franklin Project

Tara Maller is associate director for strategic communications at the Aspen Institute Franklin Project. Learn more about their work here. Are you connected to an organization that might be interested in being an Employer of National Service?