Can national service help form a more perfect union?
Former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and social entrepreneur Allen Khazei–two pillars of the national service movement living today–joined the National Constitution Center for a special Veterans Day roundtable discussion about the rewards and challenges of active citizenship. The conversation was led by the Center’s President and CEO David Eisner who, himself, recently led the Corporation for National and Community Service. Together, they offered their unique perspectives on volunteerism and how it can help solve some of our nation’s most pressing problems.
When asked by Eisner to name the biggest success of the service movement in the last half century, Wofford–who was instrumental in the formation of the Peace Corps and was its associate director in the mid 1960’s–named the Edward M. Kennedy Serve American Act of 2009. Signed by President Obama during his first 100 days in office, it was the final act written by Senator Kennedy and represented a rare and inspiring moment of bi-partisanship in Congress (listen below).
Wofford went on to credit Khazei, founder of Be the Change and co-founder of the youth service corps City Year, for driving the legislation which, in his words, helped “save AmeriCorps.” In his new book, Big Citzenship: How Pragmatic Idealism Can Bring Out the Best in America, Khazei says solving our nation’s most pressing problems starts with We the People. By relying on our individual talents we can contribute to “America’s ongoing journey towards a more perfect union.” He articulated this idea to me back stage.
If there were a Mt. Rushmore of national service these two faces would surely be on the list of nominees but, in their eyes, beneath the famous faces carved into the stone would be the names of the many individuals who have served our country in so many different capacities. 400 workers created Mt. Rushmore over 14 years, according to Wofford and Khazei this version should take the life’s work of 300 million.
Stefan Frank is the National Constitution Center’s Director of Digital Engagement and manager of Constitution Daily’s Twitter account @ConDailyBlog. Follow us!