National Service

WATCH: 2 Minutes on Why Young Americans Should Complete a Service Year

August 4, 2014

Service Year from the Franklin Project. on Vimeo.

Above, watch a newly released video making the case for why young Americans should complete a year of service. Video filmed and compiled by Jacob Finkel.

Every young American should be afforded the opportunity and expectation to complete a service year, explains a new video launched by the Aspen Institute Franklin Project. That’s the same big idea that drew 300 leaders from across the country’s public, private, and civic institutions to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (the location for the short film). Noted individuals in the media and service-related fields — including Franklin Project Chair and Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal — came together both at the event and in the video for a frank discussion about the importance of national service participation in the US.

The gathering was part of the Aspen Institute Franklin Project’s 2014 Summit at Gettysburg: Our Unfinished Work, focusing on the creation of a service year for all 18 to 28 year olds. The Franklin Project, together with the National Conference on Citizenship, ServiceNation, and Voices for National Service, put on the event, for “a country where a year of full-time national service is a cultural expectation, common opportunity, and civic rite of passage for every young American,” said McChrystal.

“Our goal is straightforward: Create one million service year positions by 2023. We’re here to think about exactly how to get that done, and to begin the long and hard, but worthwhile, process of changing what it means to be an American,” he said. “To harness the energy of every young American, regardless of his or her background. And just as in generations past, to direct that energy into solving some of our country’s toughest challenges. This is the unfinished work of our time.”

The video also features Wendy Spencer, Corporation for National Service CEO; David Gergen, Aspen Institute Trustee and CNN senior political contributor; Jonathan Alter, author and journalist; Megan Smith, Google [X] vice president ; Paul Begala, CNN commentator; John Bridgeland, Franklin Project co-chair and Civic Enterprises CEO; Col. Rob Gordon III (ret.), Be the Change president; Jamiel Alexander, YouthBuild National Alumni Council president; AnnMaura Connolly, Voices for Service president; and Alan Khazei, Be the Change CEO.

The Summit, held on the historic grounds of Gettysburg, garnered millions of dollars in pledges or commitments toward creating and supporting new service programs during the Summit. In addition, plans moved forward to combine service with higher education, and three new service corps were announced:

  • The Corporation for National and Community Service is dedicating up to $30 million in education scholarships to support new AmeriCorps service opportunities to meet critical national and local needs. Read More
  • The White House, the Department of Justice and the Corporation for National and Community Service announced Justice AmeriCorps, which will engage 100 lawyers and paralegals in a year of national service as AmeriCorps members to provide legal services to unaccompanied immigrant children. Read More
  • The Curtis Institute of Music — together with the Franklin Project — is launching ArtistYear, an arts-based service corps that brings arts access and education to underserved communities. Read More

Read more about the Franklin Project mission here.


Tara Maller is associate director for strategic communications at the Franklin Project.