President Obama has said that he found his life’s direction by way of service in his community as a young man. He has endorsed expanding community public service programs, particularly the Serve America and GIVE Acts, which have bipartisan support.

Old and young Americans, 250,000 of them, will have the opportunity to work full- or part-time on socially useful projects of public interest. Their service will mesh with new programs focusing on health, environmental, mentoring and veterans’ concerns. Days of service honoring Sept. 11 will be honored. Civic participation and volunteerism will be encouraged.

One can applaud these efforts, and at the same time ask: Why only 250,000? Why not a uniform requirement of national service for every 18-year-old or high school graduate? Why not recruit these “encore,” over 55 years old and retirees to work with needy organizations? Why infuse failing institutions with vast amounts of money going to failed managers instead of using these funds to employ a needy, available, worthwhile new corps of workers? Award virtue and industry, and not the mismanagers who created or contributed to our economic mess?

Can’t we put this fundamentally good idea — public service — into harmony with our economic reforms, and accomplish two worthwhile goals?

Visit www.RonaldGoldfarb.com.

Tags 111th United States Congress Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act Person Career Presidency of Barack Obama Social Issues Ted Kennedy United States federal legislation

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