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Should Public Service Be Mandatory?


The human race is extraordinary. For thousands of years, our species has been evolving,
changing, and growing. We have emerged from green, lush forests and dark caves and pushed
into the world, and along the way created science and mathematics, architecture and art,
languages, literature, and our own history. Human history is covered with both catastrophic and
beautiful events. While we create mistakes, we learn from them and go on to persevere.
However, it cannot be denied that the human race has left and ugly mark on the world.
21,000 children die every day due to poverty (The State of the Worlds Children, UNICEF 2009.)
The 20th century has seen some of the worst wars, ones that were promised to end all wars, and
the 21st century is unfortunately no different. Scientists are concurring that we are in the middle
of another mass extinction and that this time, humans are the cause. It is of upmost importance
that we veer off of this course of destruction and save ourselves before it is too late.
But how can we make our world a better place? Volunteerism is one optimistic approach.
Volunteers work on something that needs to be done, as opposed to doing something for
enjoyment or out of interest. The necessary is completed and can save our world. However,
should volunteerism be necessary? It has been proposed that young Americans should dedicate a
year of their lives to public service after graduation of high school. While this idea can be
criticized as being too idealistic, as well as a restriction on the liberties of Americans, we must
also realize that now more than ever humanity has to begin to think idealistically and creating
these big goals.
As with anything, this idea presents some hefty challenges. One that should be seriously
taken into consideration is that mandatory volunteerism is an oxymoron. The act of volunteering,

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by definition, must come from the volunteers personal wish to help out in a situation. If the act
is required, it is no longer volunteerism. This may not seem like a big deal, but this simple factor
could have an effect on the whole system. If someone is forced to do a task, their heart wont be
into it, and whatever job they are responsible for wont be accomplished to the fullest extent.
Along with that, the idea of requiring Americans to sacrifice a year of their lives to work on a
project they might not feel allegiance to can be considered as taking away the fundamental
liberties all Americans are granted with citizenship. It can be comparable to the disastrous
Vietnam War conscription of the late 60s and 70s. Americans ended up having to serve in a war
they did not believe in, and it is well-known that poor, unprivileged Americans were targeted
more than those who were born with the silver spoon. Mandatory volunteerism could have
similar results.
A less ideological and more realistic problem is that with a program that has to cover
such a large country, the system would be too bureaucratic. Departments would spring up, each
pertaining to a very specific part of the program. Any need to speak to a representative or to have
a problem addressed would land you on a 3 week long waiting list thats sitting in the back of a
musky, rarely attended office. Volunteers would have very little freedom to do what they want,
and their volunteer work would be dictated by the piece of paperwork they filled out at the end of
their high school career. It is a possibility that more would get done if volunteerism was in the
hands of private sectors and smaller government organizations. It is very idealistic and liberal to
think that such a system would work effectively in such a large and diverse country such as the
United States.
However, these limitations and problems created by this idea are overshadowed by the
grand idea that the requirement of public service can help us save our world! There really is no

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goal more important than to look past our self-interest and apathy, and to unite together in order
to tackle the challenges we have been presented by our own races history. It will take time, and it
will take dedication, but the fruits of labor are not only worth it, they are fundamental in order to
save our world. With volunteers across the country cleaning up the environment, helping and
teaching under privileged youth, and working on the many other tasks that need to be done, the
future will look brighter. It is an idealistic idea, and some may criticize that it cannot be
achieved, but creating big goals is the only way to see any improvement. On top of that,
volunteerism helps on a smaller scale. The youth that give a year to serve their countries will
take away something from that. Not only will they be more globally aware and possess new
skills and knowledge, they will learn more about themselves. This year can be seen as a
fundamental part of growing up, where it marks the passage into adulthood and self-reliance.
Volunteers will take away experiences that will impact them positively for the rest of their lives.
It should be noted that as of 2013, it is estimated that the odds of employment are increased by
27% when the perspective employee has actively volunteered as opposed to non-volunteers.
(Volunteering in America, Corporation for National Community Service.) This can be a positive
experience that brings about so much good to the community and to the individual.
Historically, community service has illuminated some of the darker parts of US history.
This idea of mandatory volunteerism is akin to Roosevelts New Deal program of the 30s. While
in the midst of the greatest economic depression our country has ever seen, youth across the
country were called upon to serve in different programs that aided the country. The entire
experience was seen as positive, since it provided a function for unemployed people. The same
theme was seen in the 60s with JFKs famous saying, ask not what your country can do for
you, ask what you can do for your country. We must indeed think about what we can do for our

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country and for our world. Mandatory public service can be seen no more different than paying
our taxes and registering for the draft. It is one way in which we can serve our country and act
upon our duties to not passively ignore the challenges our global community is faced with, and
play a part in making the world better place.
A lot of coordination, persuasion, and education would have to take place before there is
even a slight hope of this plan being put into effect. It is evident why there is opposition to the
idea of mandatory volunteerism. The idea is not easy to execute, especially on such a large and
diverse country like the US. However, it is important to consider all the good it would bring. It is
important to think big and strive for the absolute best. It is important, and necessary at times, to
think idealistically. Our population has done some extraordinary things, and we can push for
doing even more. We can tackle all the challenges this proposition brings, and tackle the rest of
the challenges the world brings. It is necessary that we do. Now is the time to act and save our
world, before it is too late.

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Sources

Dettori, Elizabeth. The State of the World's Children, pg 18-19 Rep. no. 978-92-8064442-5. Ed. Patricia Moccia and David Anthony. UNICEF, Nov. 2009. Web. Oct. 2014.
"Volunteering in America." Corporation for National and Community Service. United
States Government, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.

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