This is not an idea for which the time has come. This is a basic idea that has been around forever.
This column is highly reliant upon conversations with my son, Dan, who hasn’t advocated the idea half as long as I’ve tossed it around, but now articulates it twice as effectively.
We old-timers think of the still positive reflections from the Civilian Conservation Corps camps and Works Progress Administration projects under Roosevelt during the 1930s depression years. As kids, we grew up reading about and actually seeing positive results of their efforts.
The little dam and picnic and boat launching area at the south end of Mayo Lake, rather crumbled now, has certainly been enjoyed by generations over the last 90 years.
Many CCCers were given their first opportunity to learn the value of physical work, with regular meals and spartan but adequate safe places to sleep.
City kids and country kids met and learned to work and live together with boys of very different backgrounds and color of skin. They all got to send home to their families a very much needed $30 a month.
In early 1971, shortly after Wendy Anderson was elected as governor, I had a conference in his office to advocate for a year of required service for all young Minnesotans. I remember particularly, his informal second in command Tom Kelm’s reaction that, “the idea has a lot of pizzazz," but it obviously didn’t get very far.
Later, I admired the dedicated volunteerism of the Peace Corps and VISTA workers.
The possibilities of mandatory terms of service are endless. The arguments in favor are voluminous. The negatives are few.
Flexibility would be desirable to accommodate differences in capabilities, location, interests and desires of youths as they enter the service. The overall plan can be based on the premise that every young American is blessed with a lot of entitled. It is a way of paying their own way toward earning their broad entitlement.
The plan would qualify, and perhaps give premium of a shortened time requirement, for all of our existing armed services. Hopefully, required service plan participants would develop a similar degree of camaraderie and gain lifelong friendships, as our armed services veterans do now.
Think of the projects that could be accomplished; the aspects of our natural environment that could be conserved and protected; the parks and recreation facilities that could be created, maintained and improved. Think of the research and studies to be conducted.
Think of the person power that could be mobilized and added right now in our collective response to COVID-19.
As a final thought, how many trees could be planted and cared for right here in Echoland?
The program would bring about diversity, and also can be part of gaining equality. It should also result in substantial saving in government expenditure.
The concept of universal mandatory service can be a building block in creating a better America.
As stated early in this column, the potential positives of required service to our country are infinite.