THE BLOG
06/06/2014 01:30 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2014

The One Thing the Class of 2014 Needs to Hear Before Graduating

Kali Nine LLC via Getty Images

This time of year, graduating students are forced to endure commencement speeches that tell them to "pursue their dreams," "be good to others" and "stay true to yourself."

I imagine Bill and Melinda Gates will say something to this effect when they address the Stanford University Class of 2014 next weekend. Same could be said for Olympian Brandi Chastain's at Santa Clara University or even Golden Globe-Award winner Shonda Rhimes this weekend at Dartmouth. And the President, Vice President and First Lady -- I'm sure -- will all call on Americans to participate in something better than themselves.

All good advice, that isn't all that helpful or impactful. What does a graduating student -- many of whom are truly unsure and anxious about their futures -- do with such platitudes?

And what concrete suggestions can commencement speakers make to actually help the students?

It's simple. Get specific: urge them to do a year of national service.

A year of national service in an AmeriCorps program can change everything for young people who are looking for a first job: early experience, a way to gain skills, a professional network and a launching pad for their careers. And, at the same time, they can do a ton to tackle challenges in education, poverty, the environment, health and more while serving community and country.

Cliches don't help careers or shape character. Real concrete opportunities do. National service -- a "service year" -- is one opportunity that every young person needs to hear about.

That's why at ServiceNation, we've launched the "Serve a Year" campaign in partnership with 18 of the best organizations in America.

The campaign will use the most far-reaching and influential channels in our society to reach and inspire tens of millions of Americans.

We are asking TV shows to integrate AmeriCorps programs into scripts of their shows and the lives of their characters.

We are asking social media celebrities to create content to inspire their passionate followings.

We are asking companies to put their resources and reach to work.

We are asking the media and Members of Congress to make this a priority in Washington.

We are working to ensure that the idea of a "service year" is as common as going to college for the next generation.

And we're not alone -- this is an idea that is gaining momentum. This week, as a part of the Aspen Institute's Summit at Gettysburg on National Service, I will be joined by Clinton Foundation Vice Chair, Chelsea Clinton, AmeriCorps Alums co-Executive Directory Mary Bruce, Rodrigo Garcia of Student Veterans of America and Fagan Harris, the CEO of Baltimore Corps to talk about the legacy that our generation will leave.

Our nation faces immense challenges and we know that national service is part of the solution to solving them. We also know that the millennial generation is a generation that wants to serve -- but they need to know how and they need to be given the opportunity to do so.

In the meantime, I hope those who have the attention of young people during commencement speeches get specific and do more than just speak to ideals, but call young people to serve. They need opportunities, not just optimism.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute to recognize the power of national service, in conjunction with the latter's Summit At Gettysburg (June 4-6, 2014, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania). The Franklin Project is a policy program at the Aspen Institute working to create a 21st century national service system that challenges all young people to give at least one year of full-time service to their country. To see all the posts in this series, read here. To learn more about The Franklin Project, read here.