America's Future Corps: An Idea
By Erica and Karen
What about the United States government, together with the private sector, establishing an “America’s Future Corps,” to engage both our younger and older populations in government service? For our youth, what about mandatory domestic government service? For our ever-growing retiree population, what about calling upon our skills and experience, and engaging us to work alongside the young?
Many others have thought about the former, and we want to add our voice in support of that idea. And various groups, government sponsored and non-profit, engage some members of our Baby Boomer population in certain kinds of service. To our minds, however, what is missing is the sense of patriotism, community and purpose that a federally sponsored project could engender. As far as we know, nobody has proposed using this national asset—our retirees—in a collective and focused way to further initiatives that all agree are critical to our country.
Here’s a broad outline of our thinking.
The United States has ever-increasing numbers of people between the ages of 55 and 75 who are retiring from the workforce. Baby Boomers may already constitute twenty per cent or so of the U.S. population, and they can be expected to live for at least another two decades. Studies also indicate that at least thirty per cent of retirees would like, or need, to continue to work. This population has time, and a wide range of skills and experience.
This cohort also has characteristics that might incline its members to public service. We grew up working together to bring about significant change in the American landscape, both political (the Vietnam war) and social (race and gender equality). We came of age when “what you can do for your country” sparked our imaginations and our patriotism.
At the same time, we have about 4 million kids graduating from high school every year. Many of them are also inclined to engage in public service. And those for whom service may not be their first thought will benefit from learning that citizenship involves not just rights, but also responsibilities.
There is plenty for us to do. First on our list is education. America’s educational system is not adequately preparing all of our children for their future. With roots in the nineteenth century, or before, it has not kept up with the seismic technological, informational, social, economic and political changes in our world over the last 20 years.
There are lots of other projects, too. Transportation. Housing. Environment. To name a few.
We propose creating a federal domestic “Peace Corps”--America’s Future Corp--to channel the energy of our children and the expertise of our retirees to address these challenges. Such a Corps would give substantive scope to our desire to work collectively with a common national purpose, and at the same time would help to address some of the most important issues facing our country.
Everyone has something to contribute. Our children have energy, vision, precociousness, and creativity. Retirees, whether as carpenters or lawyers, health care workers or electricians, gardeners or physical therapists, administrators or doctors, computer programmers or janitors, have skills and experience that can be put to good use.
We recognize that the devil is in the details, but let's use education as an example. The basic idea is that a database would be established by the federal government, working with the private sector, into which school districts would enter their wants and needs. Younger folks would enter their service preferences. Retirees would enter their skills, experience and geographic locations. A match would be made. Federally sponsored incentives would be created to inspire engagement. The Corps would brand its members as part of a national community, deployed locally.
We remember how the Peace Corps changed our world. With a very straightforward Executive Order and a committed team that was tasked to figure out how to make its bold vision work, the Peace Corps became a community of people who actually did good. The Peace Corps changed perceptions of America, for those who participated, for those who were on the receiving end, and for the country. We believe that the federal government can do it again, this time channeling its younger and retired citizens to work together on productive projects.
The point is simple. There's much to do. Let's get going.