Gen. Eisenhower addressed the graduating class at an illustrious university saying, "Your business is to put me out of business."
A powerful segment of America strives and too often succeeds in using fear to drive America's citizenry and public policies into the cesspools of history. When too many Americans remain comfortably unaware of its domestic and world neighbors' needs, we can be led into disastrous policies that destroy our character, reputation, troops, and economy. Had organizations such as the Peace Corps had tens of millions of Returned PCVs rather than less than 180,000 who fulfilled service since its 1961 inception, America would have been too smart to be led into the disastrously costly policies of recent years.
We can't afford to waste another generation that fails to have a significant part of our citizenry smartly serve, learn, and grow in a crowded resource strapped Global Village.
The Obama-Biden National Service Plan called for doubling the size of the Peace Corps and tripling AmeriCorps. The GIVE and Serve America Congressional Proposals propose that. The world and America needs to institutionalize those proposals and more.
America needs to provide incentives and leadership that fills the ranks of effective and good-doing but understaffed existing teams. The small umbrella American World Service Corps (AWSC) agency would provide the incentives to build those teams, so their numbers would come close to the size of our active military. The small AWSC management team would also promote and help build the organized participation of other nations with AWSC volunteers, so that our service, learning, and growth connect from the interpersonal through international levels.
The Obama Biden National Service Plan has the right objectives. However, they have been forced to limit the financial and human resources their NSP proposes to achieve limited do-good goals, which they would gladly like to exceed. Their proposed Green, Elderly, Class Room School, etc., Corps are all needed. However, if these are proposed as new programs, gaining legislative approval, building staffs, fielding, and training crews will take more time and money than implementing the AWSC umbrella that empowers existing effective programs.
The already-proven teams under the AWSC Congressional Proposals and the others that can be added are not burdened with as many congressional approval, start-up, personnel, training, implement ation, etc., problems. For example:
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AmeriCorps, Habitat, State Conservation Corps, City Build, and other respected existing non-profit organizations could immediately expand their weatherization of homes, environmental clean-ups, and appropriate technology projects with an influx of full-time AWSC volunteers.
Hospitals and convalescent homes could request a major rejuvenation of Candy Stripers to serve as full-time volunteer aides to overburdened nurses, physical and vocational therapists, social workers, etc.
AmeriCorps' Jump Start program that provides classroom aides to teachers could be dramatically expanded with AWSC volunteers to insure that more individual attention and higher quality teaching spreads across the nation, while young and older AWSC volunteers improve today's teaching and provide for tomorrow's teachers, as President Obama called for on March 10th.
Headstart, which for lack of personnel fails to provide teaching to our most needy young, could expand to reach the estimated 50% of eligible preschoolers it now misses. AWSC members could provide the human resources that provide the universal preschool Obama desires.
Local do-good non-profits, who may be able to cover the daily living expenses of their volunteers, will find additional full-time helpers who after two years will have enough for a college education or have a medical savings or retirement account or home down-payment funds. For example, Glide Memorial in the San Francisco Bay Area provides food, shelter, and training to numerous individuals through its volunteers, who in many cases were themselves once needy or troubled. Under the AWSC umbrella, Glide would now have more volunteers, and those volunteers would be building future stability through the AWSC rewards program.
State Conservation Corps would grow and be better able to address increased fire fighting and flooding needs as well as better prepare states for inevitable natural and man-made disasters, For states like California, where Governor Schwarzenegger recently stated, "Fire season is now all year round," expanding the California Conservation Corps would be a Godsend. Yet, economic conditions forced Governor Schwarzenegger to propose axing the CCC in February. Hurricane-prone states would also welcome the development of their own Conservation Corps. The AWSC federal program would help states help themselves by having state citizens working to build stronger, smarter communities.
"There are two modes of acquiring knowledge, namely by reasoning and experience. Reasoning draws a conclusion and makes us grant the conclusion, but does not make the conclusions certain, nor does it remove doubt so that the mind may rest on the intuition of truth, unless the mind discovers it by the path of experience." Anonymous
Fielding twenty-one million American volunteers over the next twenty-seven years through a diverse group of existing do-good organizations gives the real world experience that builds full-bodied knowledge.
Dwayne served in the Peace Corps in the slums of Mumbai, India, worked several Habitat Projects, and was on the start-up team of the California Conservation Corps. He has a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, has been a builder, teacher, (more...)