Home > NewsRelease > A NATIONAL SERVICE CALL TO ARMS: Uniting Our Disunity
David Morey -- Dedicated to Helping Companies Win David Morey -- Dedicated to Helping Companies Win
Washington, DC
Monday, December 28, 2020




There is an old adage: If you want someone to be loyal . . . ask them to do something. America needs to ask its youth to do something—to answer a national service call to arms and unite our dangerous disunity.

In 1932, facing the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt gathered a nation in New Deal service. In 1961, John Kennedy birthed a Presidency with: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." And after his Presidency, Ronald Reagan argued: "The work of volunteer groups throughout our country represents the very heart and soul of America."

At a time when Americans can't agree on anything, 88% of Democrats and 74% of Republicans agree on something: The dire need for national service. And at a time when Congress can't even pass stupid things—there is a smart idea sitting out there: A Columbia University study finds that every dollar invested in national service produces about $4 in benefits. Today, the number of youths wishing to serve nationally vastly exceeds the number of slots available.

Recent reports abound on the strategic wisdom of this idea: e.g., the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service's "Inspired to Serve," and the Service Year Alliance's "The State of National Service." Moreover, Senator Chris Coons has sponsored the "Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act" to fund 750,000 service positions over three years. In part, this will meet the projected 300,000 health care workers needed for a Covid-19 recovery.

America must answer this call for three reasons.

First, the context of our times demands national service. Today's triple whammy of the worst US and global pandemic since 1918, the worst economic downturn since 1929, and the worst civil division since 1968 demands nothing less.

We face an inflection point whereby the dire need to solve problems touches the want of an engaged populace. After years of trying, federal, state, local, private, and faith-based constituencies are more unified than ever on this call to arms—beginning with a national volunteer effort.

What is needed is a simple, clear, focused, and disciplined insurgent strategy to make this change happen—to shock the system into doing something that dares our collective common sense; and dares our next generation to energize and escape the deadly traps of despondency, division, and disenfranchisement.

Second, this call prioritizes the "BETTER" in President-elect Joe Biden's Build Back Better—bolstering Covid-19 relief and economic recovery; rebuilding infrastructure; and stabilizing climate change. 

In fact, the beginnings of such a national service program exist today. In January 2016, three organizations dedicated themselves to making a year of service an opportunity for all young Americans. They came together to found Service Year Alliance, chaired by Stan McChrystal —one of many initiatives now underway. This kind of program, scaled purposefully, can focus on Building Back Better initiatives, unite our common purpose, and help break the isolation bubbles polarizing our populace.

National service can touch us everywhere: Helping contact tracing, sanitizing public places, feeding the hungry, supporting the elderly, tutoring the disadvantaged, bettering infrastructure, and leveraging cash-strapped local government agencies. Plus, there are as many Republicans as there are Democrats who can benefit from and share glory in this call to arms.

What is needed here is a centralized strategy and decentralized execution. As The State of National Service report argues: A "fellowship model" can ensure that national service meets local needs and invests in "Impact Communities"—cascading national service and energizing local communities.

Imagine not just the roughly $20 billion program that AmeriCorps represents today—but rather a $100 billion program that further doubles or triples its effect with public-private sector partnerships. America connects the private sector dots better than any nation on earth. So, imagine connecting the dots of health, recovery, and service.

Third, national service can transcend today's polarization. As Abraham Lincoln taught us: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." And the magic of national service is that it can unite us—with benefits accruing both to those served . . . AND to those doing the serving. One plus one equals five: Imagine a large swath of our rising generation, youth from Berkeley to Birmingham, working side-by-side atop common ground. And imagine this call to arms serving not just today's crises—but also tomorrow's opportunities.

In 1932, in the throes of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech that began his march as one of America's great change leaders:

"This country needs, and unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."

America is once again demanding this kind of "bold persistent experimentation"—and a national service call to arms.


David Morey has advised twenty winning international presidential campaigns—including that of Joe Biden. He is a best-selling author and considered one of the world's pre-eminent change leader strategists.

Roger McDonald has worked around the world as a problem solver and mediator for both corporations and non-profits—and is a recognized expert in ways to make democracy work.

For more information go to: www.playoffense.com


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