How can we grow our nation’s sense of civic responsibility?

Our country always unites around tragedy. Shortly after, it shatters back into partisan bickering with a focus on the things that divide us. So, how can we capture and nurture that sense of unity in a more permanent (and positively-driven) way? A fantastic op-ed in Politico suggests a viable possibility (Politico, 6/20):

To make citizens, we must facilitate the shared experiences that cultivate civic pride and responsibility.

This should mean a period of full-time national service as a rite of passage for every young American, ages 18 to 28. Such service could be military or civilian. Young adults could choose the Army or Peace Corps, Marine Corps or AmeriCorps, the Navy or VISTA. National service would be optional, but expected. Every college admissions officer or employer must start to ask, “Where did you serve?”

For nearly two decades, the Washington AIDS Partnership has fielded an AmeriCorps team in the District. The participants supplement the staffs of the Partnership’s grantees. Executive Director Channing Wickham says that the program works exactly as the Politico piece suggests it would:

The AmeriCorps experience is unquestionably transformative for the twelve young people who pass through our program each year. Team members develop a deep sense of social justice, and a personal responsibility to serve others and to give back to society. We stay in touch with our alumni, and we’ve seen those qualities continue to thrive. The vast majority of former Washington AIDS Partnership AmeriCorps members are now working as physicians, nurses, social workers, public health professionals, teachers, or front-line workers in poverty, housing, or health.

HEALTH | A new study from Pew Research Center finds that the portion of healthcare being administered by family caregivers has jumped from 30% to 39% in just one year. This trend reflects a number of things, including the high cost of healthcare in a bad economy and rising rates of life expectancy. (USA, 6/20)

– Next week, WRAG will release its newest edition of What Funders Need to Know. This one looks at our local direct care workforce.

Obamacare behind schedule as Oct. 1 rollout nears (CSM, 6/19)

AGING | In a program that could have been the brainchild of Todd Rundgren and Ron Howard, local seniors are using drum circles to fight through symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. (WaPo, 6/20)

FOOD | The SNAP Challenge – living on food stamps to build awareness of the hardships faced by those who rely on the program – has become quite trendy among politicians. The politicians advertise a $1.50 per meal budget and post pictures of the meals they can afford through social media outlets. It’s hard to tell what the challenge seeks to prove. Amidst budget debates, nobody is actually arguing in favor of food insecurity or claiming that being hungry is easy.

Anyhow, the Post’s Fact Checker has a great look at SNAP and whether or not the $1.50 per meal budget corresponds with the realities of the program. The bottom line:

[B]uying food based only on the average SNAP benefit for a single person [$1.50 per meal] gives a misleading impression of the program and its intended impact. The SNAP program is intended as a supplement; it is not expected to be the only source of income for food.

NONPROFITS | Why does the media tend to ignore the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors? It hurts our feelings! The Stanford Social Innovation Review writes on the subject. (SSIR, 6/20)

HOUSING | Mayor Gray Opens New Mixed-Use Apt. Building in NE (NBC, 6/19) The building includes 70 affordable housing units.

LOCAL | An ursine creature was seen bearing down Quince Orchard Road in Gaithersburg. It’s not clear where it came from – or whether it was just searching for forest fires. (WaPo, 6/20)

David Bowie once asked if there is Life on Mars. He’d probably be interested in these 1.3 billion pixel images from the Red Planet’s surface. Also, have you ever wondered why Bowie’s eyes look different? The answer is because of teenage love. Seriously!

One thought on “How can we grow our nation’s sense of civic responsibility?”

  1. One of the most striking things about our current political culture is the lack of trust and faith in our government. No matter what the issue–background checks, national security, abortion, education–few trust their government to make the decisions that are in our best interest. The distrust on all sides is toxic.

    To me, background checks are a no-brainer and a feeble one at that. But to a second amendment absolutist, they’re the first step to a slippery slope of registries and confiscation. A world of conspiracy theories has grown up around this.

    Yet, when I read about how the meta-data dragnet has stopped numerous attacks on the “homeland” (a word I hate), I say, “yeah, right.” I’m just as catastrophic-thinking as any red-stater.

    Civic responsibility is a wonderful thing, but you can’t have responsibility without respect. We need to figure out why it’s gone missing (we all have our own theories) and how to get it back.

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