Aspen Strategy Group Members Call for National Service Mission to Renew Common Purpose in America

October 15, 2020

Statement issued by a group of 46 foreign policy experts, including Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright, Tom Donilon, Susan Rice, and Stephen Hadley

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute
[email protected]

Washington, DC, October 15, 2020 – Members of the Aspen Strategy Group today issued an open letter calling for a renewed focus on National Service in the United States, with the stated goal of making “a year of paid full-time service a common expectation for all young Americans.” The statement calls for the next Administration and Congress to take bold action, citing the potential of National Service to foster a unified sense of American identity in a time of deep national division, act as a national resource during crises such as the current pandemic, and provide much-needed jobs and skills development during a period of high unemployment.

The call for National Service is endorsed by both Republican and Democrat signatories to the letter. The group expresses support for the Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act as an initial step to achieving this goal, which would increase the number of AmeriCorps positions from 75,000 to 250,000 and raise the stipend from $15,000 to $22,000.

The Aspen Strategy Group is a nonpartisan forum to explore the preeminent foreign policy challenges the United States faces, drawing on a membership of experts from diverse backgrounds and varying political orientations in the fields of government, academia, journalism, and business. The signatories of this letter include Aspen Strategy Group members and invited participants at the 2020 summer meeting, which was conducted online.

The letter is published in full below, along with a list of signatories.

America Needs a Renewed Common Purpose

As our nation faces an unprecedented set of crises—pandemic, recession, racial injustice—Americans must respond with bold measures that will unite our country, expand economic opportunity, and help our country recover. We in the Aspen Strategy Group believe a new National Service mission must be part of that response. Our group of Republican and Democratic foreign policy professionals calls upon Congress and the White House to commit to a major initiative to make national service a reality. America needs a renewed common purpose.

An America as bitterly divided as it is today cannot aspire to be the global force it will need to be for the next decades. America’s ability to promote democratic values around the world is based on our reputation as a country in which many become one despite their differences.

National service would offer binding and life-shaping shared experiences to help young Americans of all economic, ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds understand and respect each other. By participating in this common endeavor, they will have the chance to build a stronger and more unified nation.

If we had a National Service mission in place now, it would help us tackle other domestic risks and economic weaknesses that have been brought into sharp relief by the pandemic. As over 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, national service members could help respond directly to the pandemic by facilitating tasks like contact tracing, laying the groundwork for increased resilience in future health crises. Additionally, in a time of high unemployment, national service would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide service members the opportunity to develop practical skills while tackling some of our society’s deep-rooted issues. They could assist parents who now find themselves unable to access childcare; upgrade our infrastructure and learn to appreciate and protect the environment by working in our national parks; and teach STEM and other skills in underprivileged communities, thereby helping to close opportunity gaps domestically while increasing U.S. competitiveness internationally.

Efforts to lay the foundations of a National Service program are already underway. With 70 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats supporting increased federal investment in national service, this vision is ripe for action. The bipartisan Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act offers a promising down payment on that vision. It would increase the number of AmeriCorps positions from 75,000 to 250,000 and raise the stipend from $15,000 to $22,000, making national service a more viable option for a broader range of young Americans. As the benefit of national youth service to society is 3.95 times greater than the cost, the CORPS Act would plant wise seed money for our future. With this first step, we could make a year of paid full-time service a common expectation for all young Americans, which is the mission of the Service Year Alliance, the Serve America Together campaign, Voices for National Service, and other promising organizations. Moreover, the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has already developed extensive guidelines on how to successfully implement a robust national service plan.

This moment calls for bold ideas. National service would build the next generation’s patriotism and commitment to a robust American future. It would help to reinvigorate our democracy and help to heal our political and racial divides. It is an idea whose time has come.

Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
University Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Harvard Kennedy School; Co-Chair, Aspen Strategy Group

Condoleezza Rice
66th U.S. Secretary of State; Tad and Dianne Taube Director, Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Co-Chair, Aspen Strategy Group 

Nicholas Burns
Goodman Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School; Executive Director, Aspen Strategy Group

Anja Manuel
Co-Founder and Partner, Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel, LLC; Director, Aspen Strategy Group

Madeleine Albright
64th U.S. Secretary of State; Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Doug Beck
Vice President, Apple, Inc.

Robert D. Blackwill
Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

Christian Brose
Chief Strategy Officer, Anduril Industries 

William Burns
President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Sylvia Burwell
President, American University

Kurt M. Campbell
Chairman and CEO, The Asia Group, LLC

James Cartwright
General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.); former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Senior Partner, JEC Associates, LLC

Ertharin Cousin
Former Executive Director of the World Food Programme; Distinguished Fellow, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Howard Cox
Special Limited Partner, Greylock

Tom Donilon
Former U.S. National Security Advisor

Diana Farrell
President and CEO, JPMorgan Chase Institute

Peter Feaver
Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, Duke University

Michèle Flournoy
Co-Founder and Managing Partner, WestExec Advisors

Naima Green-Riley
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Government, Harvard University 

Stephen Hadley
Former U.S. National Security Advisor

Jane Harman
Former United States Representative; President and CEO, The Wilson Center

Kathleen Hicks
Senior Vice President, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and Director of the International Security Program, CSIS 

Chris Howard
President, Robert Morris University

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Ambassador, U.S. Mission to NATO

Walter Isaacson
Professor of History, Tulane University

Wolfgang Ischinger
Former Ambassador of Germany to the United States; Chairman, Munich Security Conference

Aditi Kumar
Executive Director, Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School

Mitch Landrieu
Former Mayor of New Orleans; Founder, E Pluribus Unum Fund

David McCormick
CEO, Bridgewater Associates

Dina Powell McCormick
Member of the Management Committee, Goldman Sachs 

John McLaughlin
Former Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Distinguished Practitioner-In-Residence, Johns Hopkins SAIS 

Sam Nunn
Former United States Senator; Co-Chair, Nuclear Threat Initiative

Deval Patrick
Former Governor of Massachusetts; Founder and Chairman, TogetherFUND 

David Petraeus
General, U.S. Army (Ret.); former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Partner, KKR 

Penny Pritzker
38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce; Chairman and Founder, PSP Partners

Tom Pritzker
Executive Chairman, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Susan Rice
Former U.S. National Security Advisor; Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow, SIS, American University 

Laura Rosenberger
Director, Alliance for Securing Democracy

Wendy Sherman
Professor of Practice and Director, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School

Susan Shirk
Research Professor and Chair, 21st Century China Center, UC San Diego 

Anne-Marie Slaughter
CEO, New America

Jim Steinberg
University Professor, Social Science, International Relations and Law, Syracuse University

Torrey Taussig
Research Director, Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School 

Frances Townsend
EVP, Worldwide Government, Legal and Business Affairs, MacAndrews & Forbes, Inc.

Fareed Zakaria
Host, CNN

Philip Zelikow
Professor of History, University of Virginia

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The Aspen Strategy Group’s mission is to convene decision makers in resolutely non-partisan public and private forums to address key foreign policy challenges facing the United States. The ASG organizes its annual Summer Workshop in Aspen along with Track II dialogues with Brazil, China, Europe, and India. It also presents the annual Aspen Security Forum, a three-and-a-half-day public conference that engages current and former senior U.S. administration officials, conservatives and liberals, to take part in discussions on the most vital national security challenges of our time.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org

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