An invitation-only summit took place this week at the Aspen Institute in Colorado that looks to create “a newcivic rite of passage for all young Americans,” as the event program advertised.
In speaking of “new challenges and divisions within and outside our own borders,” those gathered say “we must rebuild a sense of common purpose through national service.”
The 21st Century National Service Summit culminated with over “two hundred of the shiniest names in philanthropy, government, business, and media — including a sprinkling of Republican notables,” as noted by Bruce Chapman in an editorial published Tuesday in the American Spectator.
Chapman is the director of the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank, wrote “The Wrong Man in Uniform: Our Unfair and Obsolete Draft,” a book arguing against conscription, and served as a White House aide to President Ronald Reagan.
“In the midst of rising public distrust of government and, especially, distrust of the Obama Administration, Administration backers and their allies are launching yet another plan for major expansion of government and Washington’s control over people’s lives,” Chapman wrote.
The Summit is based on the premise that “America needs universal national service,” and looks to America’s young adults, between 18-28, to “help solve our country’s most pressing challenges and become connected to one another and to the nation.”
The goal of the Summit, first convened in Oct. 2012, was to create “a revolutionary plan: one that will enable full-time national service to become a common expectation and opportunity for all young people in our nation.”
As Chapman shares, this week’s event was called not so much to consider and weigh such a scheme as to mobilize in support of it. He shares how the program would work:
Compulsion is not very popular in peacetime, so the obligation to “volunteer,” according to Aspen leader Gen. Stanley McChrystal (Ret.), only will be “socially mandatory,” the way many high schools and colleges these days require performance of “service” in order to graduate.
I put the word “volunteer” in quotes here because “mandatory” service, however it is constructed, is only considered voluntary by Orwellians. Real voluntary service is a touchstone of our culture, but this is something else and almost contradictory, a kind of social engineering by the federal government.
This new corps will be “modestly paid,” Chapman shares, with taxpayers footing the bill. When considering associated costs — training costs, certain housing, food, transportation expenses, insurance and government overhead — “we’re looking at $30,000 per ‘volunteer’, at least — or a new program of $30 billion (30k X 1million),” he adds.
And before you dismiss the whole idea as just another liberal pipe dream, take a gander at who’s on board. Summit sponsors and participants include:
JPMorgan Chase, Target stores, Bank of America, State Farm Insurance, Chelsea Clinton, Barbara Bush (GWB’s daughter), Maria Shriver, Arianna Huffington, Anna Burger (former secretary-treasurer, SEIU), Benjamin Jealous (NAACP), the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, Time Magazine’s Joe Klein, former Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez and a high end assortment of editors, college presidents and progressive theologians.
All of which adds a little perspective to President Obama’s remarks uttered on the campaign trail in the summer of 2008:
“We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”