Sometimes unexpected messengers are the most effective. Even though the White House has for months promoted Obamacare with all kinds of speeches and advertising, it was the President's edgy, humorous interview with Zach Galifianakis that drove tens of thousands of visitors to healthcare.gov.
Of course, Between Two Ferns wasn't the first time that humor and popular culture have been used to motivate action on important social issues. In 1988, Jay Winsten and his team convinced TV writers to integrate the concept of a designated driver into shows like Cheers and LA Law. The campaign helped reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths by 30 percent. More recently, one study showed that the MTV show, 16 and Pregnant had directly led to a 5.6 percent decline in teen pregnancy.
At ServiceNation, a grassroots movement dedicated to national service, we're proud to announce that we are taking a page from this same playbook. In partnership with 18 of the country's best service-related organizations -- from College Possible to Reading Partners -- we are launching a new campaign called "Serve A Year" that will use entertainment and popular culture to promote an idea that is critical for our country: a full-time service year.
Serve a Year aims to make this ideal a reality. Already, we have begun working with the entertainment industry to integrate the idea of a service year into the scripts of popular television shows, and are producing humorous and engaging videos so we can reach and inspire new Americans in new ways.
We can break through to entirely fresh audiences when characters in popular TV shows serve with AmeriCorps before college or after college. Celebrities can create funny videos about a service year, and companies can create cause-marketing campaigns to encourage service through their product lines.
This kind of campaign has worked before, and we know it can again. It needs to. In the wake of World War II, the very ideal of American opportunity was built through the selfless service of our parents' and grandparents' generation. Today, we need to harness that same spirit of patriotism to tackle the challenges Washington hasn't been able to solve -- from the million students giving up on high school each year, to heroic veterans in need of opportunity when they come home, to short-staffed health clinics and still-rising levels of poverty.
At the same time, we have a generation of young people who are desperate for the chance to earn a living, learn new skills, and make a difference in the lives of others. Simply put, our country needs the Millennial Generation to become another Greatest Generation.
A full-time service year can change everything. It can change the course of a struggling student's life by providing her with a mentor, and it can change that mentor's life by sparking a passion for equity in education. It can change the fate of a family seeing their house rebuilt after a tornado, and it can change a corps members destiny when he discovers a calling in engineering.
But as powerful as this change can be, it can't begin unless people realize its potential, and start to get involved. Many Americans remain simply unaware of these programs, and as usual, Washington isn't listening or providing enough opportunities.
So the Serve A Year campaign is our solution is to reach new sectors of the American people in every way possible. We need to inspire them about the value and opportunity of embarking on a year of service. We need to show what that year can mean to their lives, and how it can help them follow their passions and pursue their dreams. And we need to show them how it can be an experience of a lifetime to help the less fortunate do the same.
With the Serve A Year campaign as a first step, ServiceNation believes we can take an idea that has been extolled for decades and finally, by using any means necessary, make it part of the fabric of American life.
Learn more at www.serveAyear.org.