Friday, September 12, 2008

Both candidates back bi-partisan "voluntary" national service programs


National Service, of the voluntary kind, is back in the news. This morning, former President Bill Clinton appeared on Martha Stewart (ABC channels) to discuss his “My Commitment” (“A Project of the Clinton Global Initiative”) here. The visitor can start by looking at “My Commitment 101”. Yes, the name of the initiative sounds a bit coercive. But he says, “we start one person at a time.” Clinton also says that every high school should have its own NGO for charitable work.

There is a story by Michael D. Shear and Jonathan Weisman, “Candidates Promote National-Service Initiatives,” here. John McCain has said that he does not support mandatory national service or resuming the draft, and the Republican Party platform emphatically ratifies that position (despite the fact that Selective Service continues). McCain believes that the weight of initiatives for volunteering should come in the private (including faith-based) sphere. Barack Obama has proposed a $3.5 billion service program but says it should be a private-public partnership. Obama wants to provide tuition reimbursement as a major carrot for service for older teens and young adults.

There is a website “Voices for National Service”, link here. The group has a statement from May 2008 expressing disappointment that HR 5563, the GIVE Act (“H.R. 5563, the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act” (Govtrack reference here)), did not get the 2/3 vote necessary for passage. The Congressional Quarterly story on the Act is here.

There is also an active bill HR 393 “The Universal National Service Act of 2007” in the 110th Congress, introduced by Charles Rangel (D-NY) here on govtrack. The bill was introduced explicitly “To require all persons in the United States between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform national service, either as a member of the uniformed services or in civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security.” Obviously, John McCain opposes this and hopefully Obama would.

The Post story also said today that a new voluntary national service bill is supposed to be introduced today (Sept 12) but gave no details. Supposedly, both candidates will support it. Presumably it emphasizes “carrots” rather than “sticks.” More details will appear here when available.

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