by Daniel Parr, ’07, '08
I believe in national service. I have spent the last two years working for SCA - from elementary educator to crew leader to grant writer - because I believe in what our organization tries to accomplish: using conservation service to inspire stewardship in young people.
Barack Obama and John McCain believe in the importance of service, too. On the 7th anniversary of September 11th, the two presidential nominees met at Columbia University in New York City for the ServiceNation campaign’s presidential forum moderated by PBS’s Judy Woodruff and TIME Magazine’s Richard Stengel. I was asked to attend and report on what the two most important figures on our political stage had to say about national service in the next four years.
McCain, who spoke first, talked about the role that government has to play in creating new opportunities for Americans. “I believe Americans at this point…are ready now to be inspired; they're ready to go,” he said. “They understand the challenges that we have in this world…they see a whole lot of things happening in the world that's going to require us to serve, and that opportunity has to be provided to them.”
Obama agreed, saying that Americans “believe in individual responsibility and self-reliance, but we also believe in mutual responsibility, in neighborliness, in a sense that we are committed to something larger than ourselves.”
“One way of making sure that we encourage [civic-minded] citizenship is to start early, to make sure that our young people in high school have community service opportunities, making sure that our university students, in exchange for making college affordable, are giving something back,” Obama said, practically defining SCA’s high school programs and our AmeriCorps-awarding college internships.
For an admittedly idealistic young person like me, it was a refreshing break in the increasingly tense election race to hear both candidates agree on the importance of service. As SCA’s founder Liz Putnam said, “It is vitally important for the young to realize they can each do something positive with their lives - that they can go for their dream whatever that is. This world needs their help more than ever before.”
Only a short time remains before November 4. I hope everyone reading this has registered to vote – and double-checked that they are registered – and participates in this election. We each have our own reasons for choosing (or not choosing) a candidate, and I am no exception. Still, regardless of the outcome, I feel now as I did that night in New York: that at least on one issue, I would have an ally in the Oval Office.
View the ServiceNation video coverage of the forum.
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