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Time to re-ignite national service programs

By Bob Scott • Guest Columnist | COVID-19 has given me the opportunity to sit and think. Not just daydream. I am not sure whether this is good or bad. This is one of those times.

I thought back to the time six months ago when everything was normal. A young lady and a young gentleman, both Franklin High School grads now finishing college, asked me to write them a letter of reference. I was honored to do so. I believe we will hear great triumphs from them as they experience life. FHS does that. 

I hope both will go into national service. If we learn anything from this shutdown it is public service is one of the highest callings a person can experience. Which brings me to my point for today.

We need local, state and national service. I agree with one of my favorite columnists, David Brooks of the New York Times, who wrote this week that there is a passionate, idealistic generation out there that “sees the emergency, wants to serve those around them and groans to live up to this moment.” 

At no time that I can remember have we had as many people in politics who never served in the military, the Peace Corps, Public Health Service, or AmeriCorps teaching students in inner-city schools. 

We are seeing the need in rural areas such as ours for these programs. Many of the people who helped build Franklin and Macon County came here as members of the CCC during the Great Depression. They stayed on. Integrating into the community. We see the results of their service to this day. Especially in the National Forest. 

Voluntary national service has some bi-partisan support. As we dig out from this pandemic, let us look seriously at giving our young citizens the opportunity to serve. There are far more young people wanting to serve than our government provides. Public service funding has been seriously cut while corporate funding has soared. 

Can a nation survive when we do not encourage and make public service available? Our young’uns want to be a part. Nationally we are seeing membership in civic clubs, veterans’ organizations, and so forth, decline. I think it is because we have tended to play down service as we have turned politics into a profession rather than a service. 

Let us consider bailing out our younger generation with the opportunity for local, state and national service. Now. We can pay for it. COVID-19 gives us the excuse for doing so. 

In 1963 I had finished basic training and active duty in the National Guard when I was accepted into the Peace Corps to work in Panama, rural health. But I had to make a choice between the Peace Corps or to attend officer candidate school. I chose the latter. I often wonder what the Peace Corps would have made of me as a person if I had spent two years in rural Panama?

I do not think either the Army or the Peace Corps would consider an old geezer such as myself this late in life. So, open those doors for the younger generation. Give them a chance to serve. 

I have memories. I can sit and think. What if …? 

(Bob Scott is Mayor of Franklin. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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