From Jefferson to Kennedy...From Kopp to McChrystal

A Legacy of Service

National service is embedded in the culture and tradition of America since its very founding 240+ years ago. Over the years, national service in America has taken on different forms according to the needs of the country and the will of ordinary men and women to tackle the nations greatest challenges, foreign and domestic.

On the governmental level, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton were the first to debate mandatory vs. voluntary military national service. The result of those formative years was the federal draft and later the Selective Service System that is in place until today. 150 years later, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to provide assistance to developing nations. This marked the beginning of government sponsored non-military national service.

Outside of government, nonprofit organizations have created national service programs to address critical societal needs while helping to satisfy the enormous demand for service opportunities from young and old alike.  Programs such as Teach For America, created by Wendy Kopp in 1989, now enlist some of the nations best and brightest in full-time service opportunities.

Religiously affiliated organizations such as Jesuit Volunteer Corps and American Jewish World Service also contribute to the rich mosaic of non-military national service programs.

Whether military or non-military, government sponsored or nonprofit, the common intellectual and philosophical foundation of all national service programs is that a nation is only as strong as it's citizens commitment to service above self. When viewed in this light, immersive, long-term service is the vessel through which every citizen may acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to a vibrant nation.

However, the corporate sector has long lagged behind in contributing to national service. It is in this void that Matt Ronen, the founder of Service Year and later ServiceCorps, launched the Service Year Movement in 2013 with the following words:

The Service Year Movement is the movement to disrupt the corporate career path so to create a gap year of service between college and career called a Service Year. The movement was founded on the belief that by instilling an ethic of giving through service to others at the onset of career, young professionals will contribute an exponentially higher amount of civic engagement as measured over a lifetime.
— Matt Ronen, November 29, 2013

The history of national service:

Banner: President Franklin D. Roosevelt visits the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in Big Meadow, Skyland Drive, Virginia. August 12, 1933.

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