Serving my country was an inflection point--it set my life on a new course. A former Marine, I find myself in a constant pursuit of re-attaining the meaningfulness of those four years, chasing the feeling I had when my profession involved working in challenging conditions with teams of great people to solve big problems whose scope exceeded personal gain.
The nearly 1 million AmeriCorps alums nationwide are uniquely positioned to be the nation's 21st century civic leaders. They've demonstrated their commitment. They've cultivated their talents. They're hungry to lead. Now we must leverage our investment to pave the way for continued service to community and country.
It is time to use 21st century strategies to create a national service certification system open to any 501(c)3 nonprofit, public agency, tribal government, or social enterprise. With such a system, the number of Americans officially performing "national service" could double, triple, or quadruple within a few years. National service could become deeply embedded in our culture and a rite of passage for millions.
Anyone despairing that Congress can't get anything done should note last week's swift vote to get furloughed air traffic controllers back to work. Congress can move very quickly and efficiently when it wants to and when their own comfort and that of constituents well-off enough to fly was affected. Reduced unemployment benefits, children dropped suddenly from Head Start programs, poor mothers and babies losing food supplements, teacher layoffs, and cancelled meal deliveries for seniors didn't move them -- but airport delays as members headed out of town for their April recess were apparently unacceptable.