September 30, 2016

While everyone is paying attention to the ridiculous Republican nominee and his sexist, nasty behavior toward women, policy ideas are afoot.

The Clinton campaign rolled out a comprehensive National Service plan intended to appeal to millennials, but I'm just going to stop and say that it appeals to me, too. I've long believed that national service is something we don't emphasize enough, and most of the opportunities for service are in the military, which leaves the idea of civilian service as an afterthought.

Here's what Clinton proposes to build what she calls a "culture of service":

  • Grow AmeriCorps: Draw on new AmeriCorps members to recruit, train, and lead the Reserve. AmeriCorps members serve for a year, receiving a modest living allowance and college scholarship funds. Clinton has pledged to expand AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 members annually and double the college scholarship each member receives for their service. Some of these additional AmeriCorps members will help organize the Reserve.
  • Increase Full Time Service: Dramatically expand year-long service positions, with the vision that every person who wants to serve full-time can do so. She has pledged to create 250,000 annual slots in AmeriCorps and will work with private and nonprofit leaders to even further grow the program to increase the number of citizens engaged in national service.
  • Create a Culture of Service: Engage returning veterans as well as Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and other national service alumni in the Reserve as a way for them to continue to contribute to the common good. Research shows that those who complete national service are more likely to continue to serve by volunteering. The Reserve provides a structured way for them to continue to serve in their communities – and an on-ramp to full-time service for Reservists who want to take their service commitment to the next level.
  • Build on Older Americans' Lifetime of Experience: Expand service opportunities for encore participants. Clinton wants to expand service opportunities for all Americans throughout their lives, with a special focus on people over age 55. To this end, as part of her AmeriCorps expansion, she will work to fulfill the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act Act goal of having 10 percent of AmeriCorps members be encore participants, which would create tens of thousands of new opportunities for Americans over age 55. She will also explore innovative models to allow older Americans to use the skills they have learned over a lifetime to improve their communities.
  • Strengthen International Service: Grow Peace Corps to create additional opportunities for Americans to serve in countries around the world. Building on a 55 year history of success, Clinton will increase the number of Peace Corps volunteers to provide the human capital resources to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.

This may not seem as exciting as dishing about adultery or smearing a former Miss Universe to some, but to me, it's one of the most exciting plans she's rolled out yet, not only because it calls for people to be involved in their communities, but because it counteracts the horrible libertarian/conservative ideas about how we're just all islands floating around in the bigger ocean called the United States. It gives people an opportunity to get out from behind their keyboards and into their communities, and values everyone's contribution, regardless of age.

Even though I'm a policy wonk type, I don't usually rave about candidates' policies. But this one should be a slam-dunk for everyone. I've seen with my own eyes how communities can come together after disasters like the Northridge earthquake, but it would be even better if people were trained and prepared to help.

This one is a winner, no matter what age group you're in.

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