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Thursday, April 11, 2024

We could reunite our fractured nation with this nationwide effort

We have lost faith in our country, in our system and in each other. At the core of all our political disputes and disagreements, the venom and vitriol, the hostility and anger, is this truth — we don’t know each other, and we don’t know ourselves, and as a result we don’t believe in our democracy anymore.  

This is not the blind faith of aggressive nationalism, but a belief that our democracy, while imperfect, is a work in progress — that we can move forward to build a more inclusive system that better serves all citizens. A belief that we are more than our differences and that those differences are what make our country stronger.  

Yet, we also need a shared belief in our country and in our system. Something that is bigger than ourselves. A nation that despite our differences, rallies to the cause of freedom and in the common pursuit of our shared economic and national security.  

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We’re creating a generation of students who cannot read or do basic math, and who will be unable to compete in the globally competitive world of tomorrow. If we could bring all Americans to the sixth-grade reading level we could generate an additional $2.2 trillion in GDP.  

We’re a country that is hurting. We are a country that has replaced real meaning and purpose with the hollow pursuit of instant gratification via social media. Likes, clicks, retweets, and shares are substitutes for real interaction and engagement.  

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In 2021 one in three teenage girls seriously considered attempting suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds. We are a country in pain and yes, social media has a role to play in this epidemic.  

In 2021 one in three teenage girls seriously considered attempting suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds. We are a country in pain and yes, social media has a role to play in this epidemic.  

This is not a government-led or driven effort. It is the creation of a service requirement that is administered through our robust system of nonprofit initiatives, assisted by the government, and which will help bridge the growing gaps between citizens and communities.  

Books on desk in library at the elementary school

One of the ways people could perform their national service is teaching children how to read. (iStock)

It Is not all altruistic, of course. If you want that student loan forgiveness, spend a year in an under-served community teaching reading.  

If you’re a medical student, work in a community that lacks sufficient health care services. Psychology students can help support mental health clinics. Computer science students can teach basic technology to seniors. Liberal arts students can support reading reclamation programs for low-income students.  

It is about creating a new compact between citizens and our democracy — a recognition that with freedoms come responsibilities, to our country and to each other. 

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It is time for national service to reawaken what it means to enjoy the freedoms we have and the opportunity to become your own person, while doing your own good in your own way.  

A national service requirement will help correct the drift toward mediocrity that is taking hold of our country, bringing with it dangers of division and collapse. It is time to get America out of its comfort zone and see just how great our country really is and can become.  

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