Reimagining National Service

Monday, March 23, 2015
Ellen Ozier/Courtesy Reuters
Tonia R. Wellons

Associate Director, Office of Strategic Partnerships, Peace Corps

Elisa Villanueva Beard

Co-Chief Executive Officer, Teach For America

Stan A. McChrystal

General (Retired), U.S. Army; Cofounder and Partner, McChrystal Group; Chair, Franklin Project, Aspen Institute

Jonathan Koppell

Dean, College of Public Service and Community Solutions, Arizona State University

Tom Brokaw

Special Correspondent, NBC News; Member, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations

General Stan A. McChrystal, cofounder of the McChrystal Group and chair of the Aspen Institute's Franklin Project, Elisa Villanueva Beard, co-chief executive officer at Teach for America, Tonia R. Wellons, associate director at the U.S. Peace Corps, and Jonathan Koppell, dean at Arizona State University, join Tom Brokaw of NBC News to discuss national service in the United States. The participants offer their perspectives on the importance of national service for the long-term economic well-being of the United States.

The Renewing America series examines how policies at home directly influence the economic and military strength of the United States and its ability to act in the world.

BROKAW: Thank you all very much for coming. This is a very heartening turnout because this is a subject very near and dear to my heart.

We have a distinguished panel here today, deeply involved in the idea of public service generally and then specifically with the organizations that they represent.

As we were chatting beforehand, we were all, I think, a little mystified by as the pace of this presidential campaign picks up and there are so many now issues around the table, one of them that is not is public service, the idea of the civilian population doing something for their country.

If you do any poll of the millennials, you'll find that they feel a greater distance from their country than other generations have in the past.

At the same time, as Stan McChrystal will tell us in a few moments, we have in another part of our population people raising their hands, putting on military uniforms and going to the third war since 9/11. These are the people who are coming home, in too many instances, badly damaged either mentally or physically and they represent less than 1 percent of the population.

I personally think that in a democracy that that's immoral, that we cannot ask 1 percent of our population to take all the hits on behalf of our national security, because public service itself is an important component of national security.

So we're going to talk about it here today, and I'm going to begin by asking each of these panelists as I introduce them to give us a quick snapshot of their organization and what they do.

Elisa Vellanueva Beard is co-executive officer at Teach for America. That's a very familiar organization to a lot of people.

Give us an idea, a, of how many people are applying on a regular basis; b, how many people you have out in the classrooms right now, and what the short and long-term future for Teach for America is.

BEARD: Yeah. So as some of you may know, we work to ensure that every child has access to a great education. Today, the truth is that a kid's ZIP Code is the greatest determinant of their life outcomes. And we have stood up and said that's not right. And so we need to recruit the most outstanding, incredible people who are highly sought after, college graduates and young professionals, and ask them to begin with one of the greatest types of leadership which is teaching, teaching in the greatest-need areas in rural and urban communities.

And it's a two-year commitment, but really it's a lifetime commitment that begins with two years of teaching. We currently have 10,000 corps members across 50 communities. We have 37,000 alums who are part of our organization as well. And you know, this year we have over 44,000 applications and we'll start with a corps of about, you know, between 4,000 and 4,200 incoming teachers. So it's incredibly competitive in the work that we do.

And the demand for our teachers has never been greater. And today, Teach for America is the largest producer of teachers in low-income communities across the country.

BROKAW: Thank you very much.

And sitting next to her is Jonathan Koppell and I must, in the interest of full disclosure here, say that he's here in part because of my interest in a new form of public service and the president of Arizona State University, Michael Crow, for whom Jonathan now works, is kind of taking this ball and he's running with it very hard and he hopes to have up and running next year a public service academy on the campus of Arizona State.

KOPPELL: Well, it's not that we hope to have a public service academy up and running; we will have a public service academy up and running starting in August. And I've got more than 100 applicants who will be our first next-generation service corps who will be a civilian corps learning alongside the future officers of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. We have three Reserve Officer Training Corps at Arizona State.

And quite frankly, as you know, we created the public service academy in part responding to your call, Tom, for greater attention to public service. And what we came to the conclusion was that there was not a deficit of service mindedness among young people, and that's one thing that I hope we'll cover in this conversation today, is that the notion that young people are disaffected or disinterested in public service is a myth and quite frankly it's a slanderous myth against young people.

What we don't have is an environment that encourages them, that gives them opportunities and—this is where we come in—prepares them to be as effective as possible in public service.

And so the idea of the public service academy is to create an academic program that's heavy on experience, that prepares young people to be effective and to make a difference when they follow that impulse to serve. It works well with the service programs that General McChrystal will talk about, and we think it is an antidote to some of the cultural issues that you've identified.

And our view was that this idea of a public service academy has been around longer than the republic. There was the idea that there should be a civilian service academy since before the United States was a country. For various reasons, that's never come to fruition.

Arizona State prides itself on being an institution that takes on difficult problems that other people aren't willing to take on; in our case specifically, how do you educate at scale and at quality? And so it seemed natural for us to be responsive to your call and to figure out how we can make a public service academy function after 220 years of talk.

BROKAW: And sitting next to Jonathan is somebody that I think most of you must know by now, Stan McChrystal, who is one of our most distinguished military officers and highly decorated coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan, teaching a leadership course at Yale. And he has been thinking for some time about the need for a mandatory public service program in this country.

He's the co-chair of the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute. We have spent a lot of time together on stages like this talking about it, trying to raise the level of interest.

Stan, why don't you bring us up to date on where you are with your concept and give them an idea, a quick snapshot of what it is that you have in mind?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sure. Thanks, Tom.

The basic thesis is that a nation is nothing more than a covenant between the citizens who make up that nation, and citizenship is the sinew that binds those people together. And citizenship is not a right that you are born with and it's not something someone awards you. It's a set of responsibilities that you accept.

And so the concept of citizenship is really responsibilities and it's responsibilities to other citizens and it's responsibilities to a big idea.

And you say, well, why aren't more young people responsible? Why don't more young people serve? Well, the reality is only one out of every three young Americans qualifies to serve in the military for physical or academic, other reasons, so only one-third could, and we have so few other opportunities for young people to do the kind of service that we're talking about here that in fact when we ask young people, particularly those who don't come from a background where families can finance them or something, for us to ask them to go show this responsibility of service is a—it's a difficult ask because we haven't created the opportunities and we also haven't changed the culture in America that makes it an expectation.

We really are going to be in better shape when young people not only want to serve, but there's a cultural expectation that they will do that. And as they go through life, as we've already seen through the history, they become different.

I didn't enter the military because I wanted to serve our nation. I was a 17-year-old kid and I thought it looked like it would be fun. And so I went in the military, but after a few years the practice of serving puts something inside you and leaves it there. And I think that's true of every program represented on this stage, and a host of others. And that's why I feel so strongly about this.

BROKAW: And Tonia Wellons comes to us from the administration, from the Office of Strategic Partnerships. And part of her responsibility under her umbrella is the Peace Corps.

My guess is, Tonia, and I don't—we talked about this beforehand, most people in this room probably think the Peace Corps, I remember John Kennedy talking about it, wonder what ever happened to it.

WELLONS: Well, I'm happy to say that the Peace Corps is alive and well. We are at—I'm actually very excited to be here representing the Peace Corps. Over the last 50 years, we've had nearly 250,000 returned Peace Corps volunteers, 250,000 have served in the Peace Corps.

We currently have 7,000—nearly 7,000 volunteers who are serving in 65 countries around the entire world.

We are also quite excited about the surge in interest. Actually, there's far more interest than we have the ability to place. Last year alone, we had over 20,000 applicants to Peace Corps. And we believe that part of it is because of this new conversation, this expanded conversation around national service, but also because of changes that we've made in our process and making it easier for prospective applicants to look for unique opportunities that suit their specific skill set, but also to identify countries that they have an interest in serving.

So I'm very excited, Peace Corps is alive and well. And we're excited about this opportunity here.

BROKAW: One of the reasons that I got interested in this is that I was spending a lot of time down range, as they say in the military, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And we would be out in cowboy country, quite honestly, and I'd see these brave young warriors, men and women, going into villages where there's an enormous amount of skepticism on the part of the Iraqis and the Afghans about whether they were there to really help them or not, because they would come in with their helmets on and their goggles and their locked-and-loaded weapons and their Kevlar vests and their Humvees, and they'd have to shake down the village, they'd have to go through the white pickup trucks to make sure there was no contraband and do that. And then they'd say, we'd like to build for you a medical facility of some kind or we'd like to re-kickstart your power system, and you could just see the reluctance on the part of the villagers.

And I thought, that's the face of America that we're putting out there. Whereas if I go to Africa now or many parts of South America, I find these Chinese manned camps everywhere where they're building supermarkets and they're doing job training programs.

Now, how do we change that? Because that was the essence of who we were as I was growing up. And then how do you make that a continuum in the lives of the young people who become part of this public service?

So let me ask you about the people who—Teach for America, they have an assigned period of time for a couple of years, but do they stay connected to the idea of education and the hard work that comes with it?

BEARD: What we have learned—so Teach for America is now 25 years old and, you know, it's an initial two-year commitment, but I'd say it's a lifelong commitment because that's exactly what we've learned.

Imagine recruiting young people who really want to make an impact. And I just really agree, this generation of folks just want to channel their energy. And when TFA was founded by Wendy Kopp 25 years ago, she thought, why aren't we recruiting, you know, just the brightest, ambitious, you know, people that are oriented and want to have an impact to teach?

And the idea here was that people would get to know the complexities, the challenges, the assets and the opportunities happening in schools in urban and rural America and would literally have a heart that is changed and a career trajectory that is altered most times.

Because what happens is you become, you know, in a relationship with children who you realize have all the potential in the world, truly can do anything if they are held to the high expectations and have the resources around them to support them, and they can perform as any other child in America.

And when you come to understand that, you're life is changed because you see this massive issue in our country and you realize you can contribute to helping to solve that problem.

And so what we see is in fact 84 percent of our 37,000 alumni actually are working in either education or in low-income communities somehow. About two-thirds of those are just in education.

And the reason that is a remarkable number is because only 15 percent of the folks that join us say, I intended to go into education no matter what, but that means 85 percent of our folks had no interest in education were it not for Teach for America, but they come, they have this incredible interaction and they realize you can't turn your back once you've learned what is out there, truly the lack of access and lack of opportunity for our kids, and then you channel your energy.

And you know, Teach for America is now producing the greatest entrepreneurs in education. In the Forbes 30 Under 30 this year, eight out of the 30 were TFA alums; last year, nine of the 30 were Teach for America alums.

We have, you know, over 250 system leaders, we have over 900 principals, we have nearly 100 elected officials, 120 union leaders, et cetera. And so you just see these folks, you know, this is where they've decided to channel their energy because they deeply believe this is winnable. And once you learn what's out there, you've got to contribute.

BROKAW: Stan, can we create a concept in which they can serve both domestically and internationally and even in the hostile zones of the Middle East and the Subcontinent where we can put a civilian face and not just a military face on America there?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think absolutely. I think that what we have done with the Franklin Project, it's part of the Aspen Institute, is to create a coalition of a number of other worthy programs to bring them together, because the young people can go out around the world and they can get right in the villages, whether they're in a uniform or whether (AUDIO BREAK) just representing America in some other face in ways that make them long-term servants in many different ways.

I'd really like to see the point where 15 years from now if somebody wants to run for political office, if they haven't done some kind of service they will be very nervous to try.

BROKAW: Jonathan, part of what I talked about and what Michael Crow heard in my lecture that I was giving around the country is that I thought you could twin the idea of public service with also raising the level of the skill set in America, getting them real training. It seems to me, with all due respect to the Peace Corps, in the early days the people that I knew went into the Peace Corps went off and did a wonderfully rewarding time for them in Africa and came back, but they didn't bring much back with them except that experience, you know. And they remembered it now and they went over there and they were kind of finding their way.

Can we design a program in which you can provide skill sets for the modern economy as well as public service?

KOPPELL: Absolutely. And I think that that's part of the lesson of Teach for America, is that this experience of service should not just be seen as an opportunity to give something to the community, but it's transformative for the individual.

And one of the reasons why we like the idea of a service program that combines the university experience, the college experience is because it does give that opportunity to build in the rigor and the skill-building that you're talking about.

So one of the programs of Americorps, which I think a lot of people are familiar with, is something called public allies. And we have experience with public allies at ASU, one of the largest public allies programs in the country.

Public allies is very interesting because it's not just students in college, it's also students who are pre-college and some of them are never going to go to school. But it's an opportunity to give them skills, and that's part of what I was talking about, to empower them to be more effective in making a difference.

So it's not just about raking in a park or giving out meals, you're actually learning something yourself that's going to change your trajectory.

And let me focus on one specific aspect because it goes very well with what General McChrystal was talking about. In designing the public service academy—and you know this, but I'll mention that one of my co-designers is retired Lieutenant General Freakley. His observation from Afghanistan was that one of the biggest challenges was the civilian military interaction, and many times that was more challenging than engaging the Afghans.

Part of our design of having the next-generation civilian service corps interacting with the future military leaders is to build that level of trust so that there's a foundation for more effective interaction in the field internationally, to your point, Tom, in the future.

So we think this could work to not just encourage service, but to address some of the challenges when we are working abroad and have lost the faith of the populations we're interacting with.

MCCHRYSTAL: If I could throw something on top of that to support what Jonathan says, one of the things we've done is we've allowed the term "service member" to mean someone in uniform. And I actually think that's a mistake. I think it actually shrinks the term because I think service, civilian service or military service, they are two sides of the same coin.

And I think anyone who serves should have that same sense of accomplishment and that same level of respect in our society with some skills that come with it and benefits that come with having served.

WELLONS: I wonder if I could just offer a bit of updating on the Peace Corps model. I mean, while we've stayed true to our core principles of serving side-by-side in communities and with communities to identifying and working on problems that communities identify, we also have done a number of things to really hone in on the model by being far more strategic in the areas of focus and the sector focus that we have.

You know, now we send our volunteers far more prepared, I think, than perhaps we did some 50 years ago, where there's a strategic focus on six core sectors now. There's community economic development, there's health, agriculture, youth development, environment and education.

And so our volunteers spend—first, 94 percent of them have college degrees, so they come with some specialized skill set through academic training. But then they're also given specialized training in these specific skill sectors, spend three months in home stays with families, learning the language, and then they're sent out for two years to work on community-led initiatives.

And I think a lot has changed with our model and evolved over time, which I hope leads to stronger community investments. And I think, like you mentioned, Tom, most volunteers come back feeling like they've experienced more themselves and learned more themselves perhaps as much as they contribute to the communities in which they serve.

Toni, how do you do at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue when it comes to money to pay for these programs?

WELLONS: No, it's very interesting that you asked that. And I have to be very careful in my response because we have to refrain from lobbying.


But you know, Peace Corps has had the benefit of surviving through—it's a bipartisan organization. I mean, the Republicans love Peace Corps and Democrats love Peace Corps.

I remember when September 11th happened, one of President Bush's first responses was to increase the size of Peace Corps and increase the number of Peace Corps volunteers.

Right now our budget is 1 percent of 1 percent of foreign assistance. And so while foreign assistance is 1 percent of the U.S. budget, federal budget, Peace Corps is 1 percent of 1 percent. And I just say that as a fact and to note that if we had the ability to place more volunteers, there is a demand on one side with host countries that are interested in inviting us, and there's demand on the other side, there's supply on the other side of volunteers who are interested in service.

BROKAW: Stan, do you think that there's a possibility that with the broader concept of public service that we can twin up the public sector and the private sector to create a hybrid, if you will?

MCCHRYSTAL: And that is the idea behind the Franklin Project. We don't believe that it should be a big government program, a new Cabinet-level office. We don't just think that's effective.

So what we'd like to see is things like the Serve America Act expanded in funding to what was originally planned, 250,000 positions, but we'd also like to see this very localized network, because America has more nonprofits than any country in the world. Most of those nonprofits are very local.

And what we are trying to do is create a constellation, a network of all of these with a digital backbone that makes it easy to be very directed at the problems locally, efficiently run locally, but yet have this network so that everyone who serves leaves with a sense of having been a part of something big, they were part of national service, even though what they did was very efficiently focused at a local level.

BROKAW: Just to pick up on that for a moment, many of the anecdotes that I've collected over the years about the young people who are in uniform and have served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, a young man came back, I think he was 38 or 39 years old, a major who had been in the Infantry and he had been running a squad both in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he applied for a job with a conventional American manufacturing company, and the HR officer looked at his resume and said, I don't see where you have any experience that could help us. And he said, gee, I don't know, I took 200 men into a village that didn't have any power or any water or any hygiene or any medical supplies and within 30 days I had a medical clinic running, I had a power supply going for them and I had worked out a relationship between my men and their governing council. He said, I think that should count for something, shouldn't it? And the HR officer looked at him for a moment and said, yeah, I think there's a disconnect on my part more than there is on my part.

So there is that kind of component that goes on, but again, it's all on the military side. That's where we're putting all of the emphasis now and the entire burden. And so then the question is, how do we make what we've been hearing here tonight more than the sum of its parts?

Would you be willing, for example, in Teach for America to have part of a, if you will, a kind of composite, an umbrella organization in which we would reorganize the idea of public service and not have just separate parts, but have an umbrella, if you will?

BEARD: I mean, we are open to doing our part and fully contributing. We've learned a lot in 25 years and, you know, what it takes to attract folks. I mean, we're attracting really incredible young folks to teach, which in and of itself is a touch proposition. And you know, the way we sell it is what is, which is actually a real leadership opportunity.

And so what I've learned over time is that people want to be engaged in something meaningful. The way we train our folks is teaching is leadership. You are the CEO of a classroom, you have 25 to 30 students at one time who have different needs, different strengths, different challenges, and you need to figure out how you meet them. You need to learn how to set a big goal for kids who need not only an academic goal, but a goal on, you know, character development and, you know, understanding access in their community and how they fully contribute and who they are and what they need to become to become, you know, a great citizen of America.

And we're teaching our folks to adapt to a context where many of them are not from that context and, you know, create real relationships that are authentic. So we are eager to apply the lessons that we've learned to help in this, you know, in this broader effort because we just see how important it is.

And for us, for me, this is, in my view, one of the greatest injustices of our time that we have to address. And I think there are many really important issues that need to be addressed in our country. And I think if we can engage young Americans to, you know, to fall in love—and what we have is 37,000 alums that have become passionate, resolute and convicted about the issue of educational inequity and are fully all in to solving this in, you know, in the next 30 to 50 years.

And so I think we just need to figure out how to do more of that.

KOPPELL: Tom, can I mention? I just want to mention one thing that's relevant to your point, because there's a program called Employers of National Service which is organizations, it's private sector, governments, nonprofits who have made it a policy to give priority to hiring people who have done some form of national service, whether it's military service, Teach for America, any kind of service.

It just so happens that the first university to sign on as an employer of national service is Arizona State University. I just mention that as an aside. But I think something that people can do, to your point, is to encourage every organization that they have an affiliation with, whether it's the local nonprofit or the museum that they contribute to or a company that they're a shareholder of to say we think you should be an employer of national service, so that there is not just a recognition of the skills that are acquired in the public service realm, but an appreciation of that when it comes to hiring decisions.

BROKAW: Well, you and President Crow are talking to other state universities as well, right?

KOPPELL: Yeah, so the—thank you. So our idea is not that we will be the only university that does this and we'll have some comparative advantage. Our hope is that every university will say we need to have a civilian service corps and that that will enrich the experience of our students and that will enrich the experience of the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

And I should say that the leadership of the ROTC at the national level is extremely excited about this model. They recognize the benefits of having a civilian military interaction and we hope that this is a model that's replicated at every university in the country.

BROKAW: Let's talk practically for a moment about establishing something like that at Arizona State. How much is it going to cost?

KOPPELL: So right now, so this is an opportunity, but right now we are internally bearing the cost of this and it's costing us to do a three-year pilot somewhere on the realm of $1 1/2 million, a very bare-bones version. And what we can't do is exactly what the panelists have all talked about. We can't guarantee a funded opportunity to serve afterwards. That's outside of our realm, you know, our capacity financially.

What we've been able to do is to create a four-year experience that combines classroom learning with summer learning experiences, custom-crafted experiences for what we think are the necessary skills, to your point, for somebody wanting to serve in the 21st century.

I think there have to be investment, whether it's from the private sector, whether it's from the public sector, in order to make this happen. It's not something that universities can simply sustain on their own.

BROKAW: Yeah. I feel very strongly that these programs have to be open, not just to the students who are coming out and have a little bit of latitude in their lives so they can join Teach for America and go teach and then go find another career if they want to, but it has to go up and down the socioeconomic scale.

KOPPELL: Absolutely.

BEARD: Absolutely.

KOPPELL: Absolutely.

BROKAW: When we had an early discussion about this when I was introducing the idea to some people in New York hoping that they may agree to help finance the Arizona project, a woman from one of the big foundations said, but what do we do with the 16-year-old or 18-year-old dropout in the Bronx, an African American, not going to go to school? And before I could answer, one of the representatives from Alcoa said, teach him to weld and I'll hire him. And that's a big, big component of what I hope public service will become, is that they'll come away from public service with something that is tangible that they can take to the workplace and have for the rest of their lives.

Part of the reason that I came up with the idea of public service is that I was looking at the Israeli model. And as you all know, at 18 they go into the IDF and then when they get out of military service they go to college. They go into the (INAUDIBLE) experience or that public service experience and it gives them a kickstart so by the time they're 30, 31, they've got startup companies going and they're, you know, they're doing things for the Israeli economy that are quite breathtaking, frankly. And the underpinning of it all is that they have served their country and in doing that they have learned these other skill sets.

I'm going to break the rules a little bit. We're going to go to Q&A a little earlier than we would normally because I'm counting on your eagerness to know more about all of this.

And so to the members here, remember the rules. If you will raise your hand you'll be recognized. And then tell us who you are.

We have right over here.


BROKAW: Hold it right up to you.


BROKAW: I think it's not on probably.

QUESTION: Is this on? Yeah. With the last sentence, there was 182 languages being spoken in the United States. So if you can start this program, this is one way to integrate all the communities that we're trying to reach out to so that they understand what being a citizen means, because citizenship is an integral part of being a part of the United States. So how to do it?


MCCHRYSTAL: I think one of the great lessons we learned form even things as negative as wars, Civil War, World War I and II, was they created a great cross-leavening experience. People who were from farms and cities and different parts of the country interacted with people and experiences that they otherwise wouldn't have. And I think, as Tom wrote the brilliant book "The Greatest Generation," they became a great generation from that experience and part of it was that cross-leavening.

So I think one of the components of this common experience for young people could be exactly that.

BROKAW: Right here, second row.

QUESTION: Hi. I'm Lisa Miller. I'm chief growth officer for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. And I'm wondering, we started this conversation kind of talking about there seems to be a disconnect, young people seem distant from the country. But as I hear you talk and I think about my own experiences with young people, it seems they're very interested in your programs, you're oversubscribed.

And my experience is, especially with this generation, there is a deep need to volunteer and to feel like they're part of something meaningful. So I'm wondering if you could maybe talk to, what is the missing piece of the puzzle? Is there something that's happening at the political level, the policy level? We're not seeing that connection to the service nation you kind of envision.

BROKAW: Tonia, why don't you take a shot at that?

WELLONS: Sure. I think one of the successes of Peace Corps has been, you know, it's a structured model, it's pretty predictable. You're going to spend three months in language training, in cultural immersion, then you're going to spend two years in a community. And then once you complete your service, you return and there's a strong community of other volunteers who are references for you, who are available to connect you to employment opportunities through things such as the Employers of National Service effort.

What I'm particularly proud of is that the Peace Corps model has been used for modeling other programs, and that's both domestically and internationally. I do think that while there is a strong demand for a Teach for America program, for the Peace Corps program and other service efforts, Americorps program, for example, the idea of organizing structured volunteer activities that have a, you know, a strong undercurrent of training, there's a routine to the service and then there's an alumni network or an association that sort of supports it at the completion of service. It's part and parcel and key to the success of these programs.

You know, Peace Corps is interested in looking at other ways of supporting models that replicate the Peace Corps model because we've learned so much and refined it over time.

I think that's also part, General McChrystal, of the service nation idea is really around—and I'll let you explain it because you can do it better than me—but it's around creating really structured service opportunities across the country where programs like Peace Corps or Teach for America, for example, can't manage the demand.

MCCHRYSTAL: Yeah. If I could, that's exactly right. Because what we've done with service is we've made it really hard. If your parents can fund you for a year, you can do volunteerism or something. If you don't have a college degree, many of the programs are hard to get into. So what do you do? You take this year off and you volunteer. Well, who's going to feed the family? How are you going to get a job?

I teach at Yale and I have a lot of young people who want to do something, but they feel this press, if I don't go on with my career I fall behind. We need to take that pressure off. We need to give them a realistic opportunity that's not only funded, but it's culturally accepted so that when they decide to do it people aren't looking at you and going you're an idiot.

No, it's like Jonathan said. There were some advantages connected to it so people go, yeah, that's a good thing. So around the dinner table, parents are saying, where are you planning to serve?

BEARD: And I'll one thing to that. Just to build off what they just said. One thing that we've learned is with the millennials. So our applications are actually a little bit down this year from last year. And in our analysis, you know, we're updating our value proposition. This is a generation that is incredibly entrepreneurial. They want unique opportunities. They want to be part, like feel like they are special.

And when, on average, you're bringing in 5,000 new teachers, you need to feel the specialness in 5,000 new teachers and you've penetrated lots of colleges and universities. And so for us, we're reflecting a lot on how to make the experience really special and people feel like they're part of something that's incredibly unique and meaningful, so investigating things like how to create tracks within our corps.

People are attracted to Teach for America for many reasons, because they want to learn about policy, because they care about social justice, because they're actually interested in health care long term, et cetera. And so what if we created tracks by which people are able to become a part of that and feel really held and unique and special as they go through this from the very beginning through alumnihood, et cetera?

And so we're just rethinking how to ensure that we stay fresh and on the cutting edge of what people want to be a part of that's really meaningful.

And one last thing I'll say about ensuring that this opportunity really is for everyone. We spend—in our budget, we budget over $12 million just for financial aid and grants because we don't want anyone to not pick Teach for America because they can't afford it. And we're also part of Americorps, which is really important for us because our teachers get a stipend at the end of each year, which they can apply for either loans or to pay for the certification costs that it costs to teach. And so that's one of our big commitments that I think is really important as we think about service for all and ensuring everyone really does have access.

BROKAW: One of the things I think is very important about both Americorps and Teach for America is that they're domestic programs. I do believe that whatever the new hybrid is, and there will be several variations on the theme, that we don't just send people overseas because there's so much work to be done here. And it's everything from working in poverty-stricken zones or places where they don't have sufficient financial...

KOPPELL: Well, there are people who did Vista, and I'm sure there's—maybe there's some—people talk about their Vista experiences decades later as being transformative.


KOPPELL: And that has the same potential at the Peace Corps.

BROKAW: Right here on the aisle. I'm sorry, right behind you, Rocky.

Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: Just a couple of very quick comments. One is I think we all know or believe that the millennials are probably the most narcissistic generation we've had in a long time. And that's a detriment in every aspect of society and something I think we need to figure out how to conquer. And this may be one good way.

Two is I think—have you, Tom, talked to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett because I think they definitely need to be a part of this conversation.

And three is, why are we only talking about young people? It was in the '60s that we were all out there and we did join and do public service. And those of us around today, I think we'd probably do a really good job and could speak well.

BROKAW: It's not confined to young people, by the way.

QUESTION: Well, certainly that's the impression we're getting here.

WELLONS: So may I just offer a comment on the young people question? Because Peace Corps is actually quite interested in—well, the average age of our volunteers is around 28 years old. Seven percent of our volunteers fall into the 50-plus category, and that...

QUESTION: (OFF MIKE) I have a friend who is in her 70s and just joined the Peace Corps now in (INAUDIBLE).

WELLONS: Absolutely. We have a new partnership with AARP because we recognize the value that Americans bring to service throughout their lives. From 18 to 80 is what we say in terms of who we look for to serve in Peace Corps. Seven percent of our current volunteers are above the age of—50 and above.

BROKAW: I'm going to go to the back and then I'll come back to the front again. Right here on the aisle, and then we'll come to you in a moment, sir.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) Thank you all for coming to speak to us. You know, thinking about how this would all work from a practical standpoint, I think there's a lot that needs to be done to reintegrate anyone who serves, whether it's in the military or in a nonmilitary capacity, back into society and perhaps give them an edge.

Now, my opinion as a civilian not having served in the military or in public service is we do a really poor job with our veterans to reintegrate them back into society. And I speak as someone who while starting a small business I tried to reach out and find out how I can hire veterans and it's really hard for me. And you know, I have, you know, a potential job opportunity to give away to someone who's a veteran; it's been very difficult. I really had to work really hard. I can only imagine how hard it would be to find someone who used to be in Teach for America or used to be in the Peace Corps. I wouldn't know where to begin.

So how do we work on that? Because I think it's great to have the supply and demand in the programs, increase the budget, but if you don't see that value, as General, as you said at the dinner table as where are you going to serve, they're not going to go and have that conversation.

Thank you.

BROKAW: Stan, why don't you—let me just phrase this this way. What can the public sector and public service learn from the military sector in terms of how to motivate people and create a structure that will address those questions that he has and the other questions that are bound to arise?

MCCHRYSTAL: Yeah. I'll be very candid with you. I think the military does very well getting people in the service and keeping them in the service. It's a very addictive environment, sense of team and whatnot, sense of self-satisfaction from what you do.

The military doesn't do very well in helping people as they transition out, because the military's focused forward and they think that the people are leaving—there are some programs, but frankly they're not what they need to be.

But you know, young people go into the military from neighborhoods and they come back to neighborhoods and to families. And that includes cities, towns, and includes businesses and schools. There are things like the GI Bill, which I think are good, there are some veterans preferences on hiring. It's imperfectly done, but it can be done better.

But I think on the civilian side, as Jonathan talked, those programs need to be very robust so that if a person comes out of the civilian service, this spectrum, there ought to be the equivalent of a DD-214, that's your discharge papers from the military. And you ought to be able to take it to an employer and you ought to be able to go, look, I served. And just like Tom said, your skills transition, but also there should be some credit given for the fact this person went and gave a year.

You know, as you build that over time, people are going to pay attention, the people who have served, have an advantage in being admitted to colleges, being admitted for jobs and things like that. It will be a market effect, I believe.

And it's really stringing it or it's plucking on a string that's already there in young people. They want to serve, but they need opportunity to do that and they need a little help with it.

KOPPELL: I think the point—and looking, you know, you looking in the mirror that the military doesn't do this terribly well, I mean, I think that's a lesson that has to be built into the design of these organizations.

The federal government has a veterans hiring preference, but the federal government itself doesn't know how to process the things that come out on that form into the federal employment. And so the anecdote that you just said, yes, we're impressed by that, but a person says, yeah, but I need a shift manager and I'm not sure that's the same as going into a village and building a school, I just need a guy who's going to—and so how do you put those things together?

I mean, I think that has to be part of the design of a good program from the outset is saying, let's build experiences in the service year or, in our case, our service academy that adds up to a list of qualifications and skills that you as an employer say, OK, this woman has what I need and I'm going to hire her as a result.

BEARD: And for us, partnerships have been really important on the recruitment end because we're competing with MacKenzie and Goldman and competitive graduate schools. And so we've tried to build partnerships where we say, hey, let them do Teach for America first and then let them go join you, and that's been really important for us and we're just, you know, wanting to grow those partnerships. Anyone that's interested, please.

BROKAW: Start right here in the front—well, I'm going to here. I'm going to go back and forth to try, I guess, semi democratic.

QUESTION: My name is Donald Schriver. I'm the president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary. I was drafted at age 18 in the immediate post-war period into the Infantry. And from Infantry I was transferred to the Signal Corps and ended up my service at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey trying to understand how to repair a EE-8-A field telephone. I've never been sure that was much of a service to the United States or to the world.


Had I been given the chance at my being drafted of being either a teacher for America or a member of the Peace Corps, I would have jumped at one of those two opportunities.

What I have as an anxiety is the following. I favor the idea of a national (peer ?), a national service corps and of the idea that every Americans young person should be given the opportunity to serve the nation and the country in some such capacity.

What worries me is the bureaucratic tools that easily involve the ease with which an entire generation of young Americans might be mobilized to fight a war. Does that issue worry any of you in your discussions with people in government about this idea? Is it possible that a national service corps would be a kind of stalking horse for national return of the draft system that would make it easier rather than difficult to mobilize American young people for going to war?


MCCHRYSTAL: Sir, first, thanks for your service in the Army. I think I was still using that same field telephone when I started.


You know, I actually take a slightly different view. I actually think that when you have a voluntary military it's actually easier to go to war. Because when I would go to bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, invariably the platoon sergeant or the platoon leader, company commander were the son or daughter of someone that I served with, a peer.

And so what you're getting is a relatively insular military, which makes it very easy to go to war without engaging the vast majority of ZIP Codes in America.

And I think one of the problems now is, when America goes to war it should be a policy decision by America. And when we put America at risk, everybody should be put at risk because then we'll make those decisions with a great degree of responsibility.

And so I take a slightly different view. I'm very sensitive to your concern, but I actually think more young people serving, we have data that shows that if you do a year of service you are three times as likely to vote. And so what we need is more Americans voting. We need more Americans in the process so that the decisions we made represent America.

BROKAW: Right here on the aisle.

QUESTION: Edward Bleier. And I'd like to amplify this argument. I'm also of the cohort who's no fan of the draft. But my military service, which was safe during the Korean War, was the best year of my life.

On that subject, you not only leave with skills, but you've taken young Americans and gotten their health in shape, barring war, death and accident. And that's a very good social program for what we need to do on health care here.

Now, just as a matter of marketing, if you were to run a candidate for president who believed in national service of different sorts, he'd be hooted out from both sides of the aisle, but it would start the dialogue.

BROKAW: That's a very typical, provocative suggestion from you, Rocky.


But what I do think is that that is an opening to why we're here. We're here because we think that we have to, if you will, reconstruct the idea of public service, the concept of it, and then see if there are new models, the models that exist here now that we can put together so it can be greater than the sum of its parts and find the elements that will help make it that, whether it's health care or job skill training or finding other ways of doing it.

You know, one of the things that I—one of the great, great services that Silicon Valley has done for us, in my judgment, not just all the tools that they're (supplying ?) us, but they have given us a new way of thinking, which is be disruptive, challenge convention, find new ways to do things. And they're doing that every day. And as Tim McCook says openly, we're going to get you to buy things you don't think you need.

The fact is that when it comes to public service, we have to create a new forum that people have not thought about before that will excite them, not just those who sign up for Teach for America or sign up for the Peace Corps or for Stan's program, but other ways to make it a magnet and to make it something that they'll feel they're not just giving back, but they're getting something for it. And health service may be a piece of that.

MCCHRYSTAL: Tom, could I jump on that just a second about the political part?


MCCHRYSTAL: Because I'm not political at all, so don't pay attention to what I say. But what I will tell you is I think you're wrong. I actually think that candidates are going into elections now trying to be as minimalist as they can, make no mistakes, sort of a sports thing, don't say anything wrong, protect entitlement programs, protect everything people like.

And some candidate's going to stand up and say, listen, how about the big idea? How about we expand citizenship? How about we say that Americans are responsible for each other? And I think that candidate's going to find themselves with an absolutely open field. And if they were smart, all the candidates wold view this as a nonpartisan political issue because it's not left or right, and I think that they'd find much more resonance than we might think.

I think we've become shaped into expecting too little.



MCCHRYSTAL: And I think she liked me.

KOPPELL: I don't think they get—so first of all, I think they would get hooted off the stage if they said let's go to a compulsory service, right? And I think that's a leap too far from where we are culturally now where we ask nothing of anybody. Go shopping.

But I think that a person who articulates as a principle that this is what we should be about as a country and who promotes a program which supports institutions that take it upon themselves to create opportunities for people to serve, I actually think that wouldn't get hooted off the stage.

And so it's finding that balance between an aspiration that a call to service versus a compulsory requirement, I think that that's the place where there is a political opportunity.

BROKAW: Right here in the front row.

QUESTION: My name is Eduardo Mattoso, and I spent my whole career working for the United Nations here in New York and all over the world. But like Tom and General McChrystal, I am retired, so I have time to be with you. And I'm greatly honored to meet you both and all members of the panel.

I want to address a specific issue. Thanks for public service, but I want to talk about international public service and specifically the Peace Corps. And Tom said people ask, what happened to the Peace Corps? We know because of the U.N. we have something called U.N. Volunteers which works all over the world and we cooperate fully with the Peace Corps.

WELLONS: Absolutely.

QUESTION: In Manhattan, in New York, it's very easy to say, what does the U.N. do and what does the Peace Corps do? We work on a daily basis with the Peace Corps in country, on the ground, in every country in the world, especially in the developing countries. And they do very, very great work.

I'll give you a specific example. There are many examples, but I'll give you one. I used to be a U.N. representative in a specific country. When that country became independent—I'll mention the country, Namibia. You know, it was controlled by South Africa for many years and when we forced South Africa to give up Namibia, South Africa did not like it very much, so they withdrew all their personnel, doctors, engineers, electricians, nurses, doctors, et cetera, et cetera. They withdrew them precipitously.

What to do now? The country was left with nothing. So we got immediately Peace Corps and U.N. Volunteers to take over these things. And the Peace Corps personnel, U.N. Volunteers, they're highly qualified people. We prequalify them to make sure they are really competent lawyers, doctors, teachers, nurses, et cetera. They came onboard and they were able to hit the ground running.

So I want to thank you very much, Peace Corps. And I want to thank you for your collaboration with us. They, of course, make sure everything worked smoothly in Namibia. It's one example, but it's all of the developing countries of Africa, not an American issue.

And you mentioned the cost of it. It is very cost-effective. It's not expensive at all. So thank you very much for that.

BROKAW: Thank you for reminding us of that, because you know, wherever I go in the world in fact, I find that cooperation going on, not just between the Peace Corps and the United Nations, between other NGOs like the International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders and so on.

What we're here today is to try to—how do we raise the awareness of that and consolidate the impact of it so that we get more people thinking about it and making it a component of this country? And we don't have these kind of ivory towers to be reminded of it, but it becomes part of the general conversation in political campaigns.

QUESTION: Exactly, Tom. The most famous Peace Corps volunteer, and he keeps talking about it, is your colleague Chris Matthews. Whenever he says—whenever he's on MSNBC, he always says, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Swaziland.

WELLONS: That's right.


BROKAW: Thank you very much.

WELLONS: So we're actually—we're...

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

BROKAW: Thank you.

WELLONS: Thank you very much. We're actually...

BROKAW: Do we have anybody in the back? I'm trying to be geographical here, but I can't be. But yes, on the end here, then on this side. Yes?

QUESTION: I thank you. My name is Steve Buffone, I'm a lawyer by day, but involved on the board of two great organizations that are involved in getting young people involved in service. One is Echoing Green which is sort of the premier not-for-profit venture capital financing source for social entrepreneurs. And indeed, Wendy Kopp started Teach for America with an Echoing Green fellowship.

The other is Do Something,, which is the largest organization in the country, indeed in the world, in terms of getting kids involved in their communities.

So I wanted to make a comment. A lot of what you're saying, I think, is directed to before there would be mandatory national service, the superstars that apply and gain a Teach for America post as an example, or Peace Corps, are the winners.

You know, Echoing Green, we have 42 fellowships, had 4,000 applications last year from 120 countries around the world. There's an incredible interest at that level among the most talented.

At Do Something, we try to focus not only among the most talented, you know, we call them not only the A+ students, but the C students, those who can't, for whatever reason, dedicate, you know, full time, a year, whatever else it might be, to community service.

And so I wonder if, you know, in the transition period, which there clearly will be between where we are today and maybe eventually get to a year of national service, what are you doing to motivate and involve the C students, those who it would be critically important for the country to integrate service into their lives, not only when they're young, but hopefully going forward?

BROKAW: Jonathan, why don't you take a shot at that about what the hopes are at Arizona State University?

KOPPELL: So the premise of Arizona State University is entirely consistent with yours, right, which is you can't only have higher education designed to serve the people at the very top from an achievement point of view. And so our university is designed to be accessible to anybody who can do college-level work.

Now, we have, you know, the equivalent of Swarthmore as part of our university. And it's our honors college and their grades are better than everything, you know, their SAT scores, and that's terrific. But you've got to create an opportunity for the full range of the population to have access to higher education.

The exact logic has to apply to anything that you're doing in the realm of public service.

One of the most interesting things for me—I'll take a little bit of a moment to get on a soapbox. So I'm dean of what Tom says, the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. It's about 6,000 students, all of whom are in fields that are going to lead to public service professions, right, social workers, criminology and criminal justice, public administration, public policy, nonprofit leadership, parks and recreation, all these things that are about service.

The interesting thing is our college is the most diverse even at ASU. So it's a majority/minority college, two-thirds of our students are Pell eligible, more than half of our freshmen are the first in their family to go to college. We haven't done that by design.

So part of the question I had when I got to ASU and I had the honor of leading this college was, why, why do we draw these students? And it's an interesting one, because if I asked you your priority assumption about what somebody who's the first in their family to go to college would want to do, I think a lot of us would say make as much money as possible to change the fortunes of their family. That turns out to be 100 percent wrong.

What they want to do with the college degree is to serve their community. They see the need around them, they saw the need in the communities where they grew up, they want to go to college, get the skills to go back and do something in their community.

And so the reason I mention that is because not only is important to democratize service in the way that you're describing, it's important to create service opportunities for, in many ways, the most service-motivated of our population, which is those that grew up in communities of need who recognize how much there is to do.

One of the unfortunate aspects of our society is not just military civilian segregation, but socioeconomic segregation, that there's a lack of awareness, quite frankly, among a lot of people about the need in our country, not just in the developing world.

What we found at ASU is that—and I feel this very personally because it's in my part of ASU—that creating the access to education is important, not just because you transform the trajectory of the individual student, but it's because it's in our collective self-interest, right? We need to open the doors of education to these students or we're ultimately sticking it to ourselves.

So I agree with you 150 percent, but not only because you have to give the opportunity to the individuals who benefit from service, who get the skills that Tom's talking about, who hopefully get the job opportunities, but because if we don't open those doors we ultimately are going to be the ones that collectively suffer because they're not going to be the people who care about those communities of need, who are prepared to go out and do something about it.

So creating—and General McChrystal mentioned this—creating service programs that are only accessible to the elite, only accessible to the ones whose parents can pay for a year of enrichment or whatever. That's fundamentally a failure, right? It's not going to deal with the problems that we're talking about on a societal level.

And that's why getting investment in it collectively is absolutely pivotal to making this work.

BEARD: One thing I will say about Teach for America that not everyone is aware of, but we believe that we need to reflect the communities in which we work as well. So Teach for America today is 50 percent people of color, a third of our folks are first-generation college graduates as well. And we've worked really hard to ensure that we've diversified our corps so that we can truly, you know, represent the communities where we work.

But the other thing I will say, in order to ensure you're attracting C students—because it is true, we are going after, you know, the biggest leaders on campus who are incredibly ambitious and are being highly sought after by many—we need to work to create meaningful opportunities.

I see things that are being created, you know, asking people to volunteer, but they're not—they don't spark that fire or that truly you're like this is something, I'm part of something that matters and I'm connected to people that are about something that you get in a culture of the military or Teach for America, the Peace Corps or whatever, that I just think it's so important.

And so the thoughtful work around that, I think, is left to be done that needs to happen if we're going to make progress.

WELLONS: And I'll just mention also, for Peace Corps we're now, today, 25 percent of our volunteers who are serving represent minority communities. We still think that there is much more work to be done to not just recruit from minority communities, but also to recruit from a broad spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds, to recruit from a diversity of colleges, not just the Ivy League.

We're very excited about the relationships that we have with historically black colleges across the country, with historically other minority-serving universities and organizations in order to make sure that we tap the best and brightest from across a broad spectrum.

I'll be happy to mention that ASU is the number 15, I think...

KOPPELL: Fourteen.

WELLONS: ...14, excuse me, 14 top producing Peace Corps college. And we're just excited about the diversity of talent that they attract and then they, of course, attract to Peace Corps.

MCCHRYSTAL: I just want to add that as a C student I appreciate you thinking about it.


BROKAW: On the aisle.

WELLONS: And I also appreciate the connection that you're making between social entrepreneurship and service, because I think there is actually a triangle between the startup movement, the social entrepreneurship movement, and the general service movement. It's actually an incredibly exciting time.

QUESTION: My name is Steven Blank. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to do an assessment of one of the International Executive Service Corps. And I found it was remarkable how retired folks, men and women, were able to leverage their experience and skills often in very hands-on situations all over the world. I'm wondering if you have explored these intergenerational contacts? As an educator for more than half a century, I would have thought that going out and spending time with these guys and girls in the field, doing what they did, even welding, Tom, would have been a remarkable experience.

So if you're doing this already, I apologize for raising it. But maybe it's an idea.

BROKAW: We give the baby boomers a chance to redeem themselves.


What about older people coming in Teach for America?

BEARD: Yeah. So about a third of our corps are not straight out of college or young professionals. Our design is we have a theory behind it, which is we're recruiting people to come into education and there's lots of inertia in education and so we are trying to get people who are early on in their career. Some people say, gosh, you all are naive that you think you can come into a community and, like, set these really big goals and really believe it's possible, like really believe kids growing up in poverty, really believe kids that have not done well, even when they're 10 years old and three years behind, that you all actually think that you can contribute to getting them on a path and you actually believe that they really can be prepared to have the option to go to college and that that should be the ambition that we have? And we actually really do believe that.

And it's easier for people to believe that when they're young and they don't know all the things that you learn once you're in it, which is it's really hard and it's really complex and it's really nuanced. So we want people to know that. It's really hard, it's really complex and there's no silver bullet to solving this.

But we are able to shape someone's career on the front end when, you know—we have so many people that wanted to be doctors and lawyers that did Teach for America. And they're like, if I didn't get in Teach for America I was going to be a lawyer, I was going to go to law school, and then they join Teach for America and, you know, they may go on to law school, but they're not going on to law school to pursue what they were probably going to pursue, they're doing juvenile justice or they never go on to law school and instead decide, you know what, I'm going to become a principal because I see how a principal truly does change a community.

And so for us it's actually by design that we want to get people early on in their career so we can influence what they choose to do for the rest of their lives, and also the sense of optimism and, you know, possibility is fresh and we're able to shape that early on and then, you know, really expose them to the skills and mind-sets and orientations that we think are critical to have in the work that we do.

BROKAW: The sand is running through the glass here and I want to be as democratic—yes, right there. Tell us who you are.

QUESTION: I'm a narcissistic millennial. It's nice to be here.


QUESTION: So I was selected for TFA, unfortunately did not do it. Love the Peace Corps, wish I would have done it. I lived with a bunch of TFA grads in Atlanta. I was one of the other part of the 100 percent. I was taking care of my mother, I was on a full ride, I went into consulting. I'm OK with the choice that I made. If I could have gone to Peace Corps, I would have done it.

It sounds like everybody is in agreement mostly, right? I think the idea...

BEARD: Well, I know something you can do for Teach for America. We should talk later. But yes.

QUESTION: The idea of, like, a national service corps makes a lot of sense to me, especially, you know, if the government got behind it. But public opinion polls, it doesn't come up at all with candidates. So is the answer private? I mean, you say something about meaning, I almost went to Bain—sorry to like the one MacKenzie person in the room who I saw on the list—because they have a program where you go for two years and you do nonprofit consulting. Like meaning is huge, that's what they found in Silicon Valley, that's why everybody wants to have, like, ping pong balls in their, you know, in their corporate offices or whatever.

So what are you guys doing? What's the answer? I couldn't do Peace Corps because of the money. A lot of my friends couldn't do Americorps because of the money. What is the next step?

MCCHRYSTAL: Yeah. Can I take that one, Tom?

I think it's going to be a combination. There's no way you can make national service broad enough. There are 4 million young people in every year group now. And I think and we think at the Franklin Project you need to get about a million of them serving before you have critical mass, before everybody knows somebody who is serving and it is viral through a generation so you start to really change generations. That's going to take some public money. That's going to take some private money. It's going to take partnerships and all the things we've talked about.

You know, I read a book not long ago about the Hoover Dam. And at the end of the book, and it's very inspiring, at the end of the book, the author goes we could never build it now. We couldn't build it because we couldn't get the states to agree on the water, we couldn't get environmental things through, we'd disagree on this, and we just wouldn't try.

And I would tell you, I think that's one of the big problems in America right now because we just are scared of anything that's big. And you say it's not in the political discourse. It's not in the political discourse because candidates don't put it there because voters don't demand it. Candidates are going to do what you demand of them. That's my ask of everybody here tonight. Demand the candidates answer the question, whether you're for it or against it, put it to them and make them say what they think about it.

And don't let them be hazy, it would be nice if everybody did a little bit of service; get very specific. Say, would you help fund a program that created a service-year opportunity for every young American of every economic strata, would you put your money where your mouth is, your political capital, would you do that?

And I think if we did that, I think we'd find candidates would figure it out.

BROKAW: I'm sorry. I'm going to go in the middle because we missed the people in the back on this side. Right there on the—yes. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you. Earl Carr, representing Momentum Advisors. I work in the private sector. And I was wondering, how should we be rethinking how to better engage the private sector to support programs such as yourselves? What should we be doing that we're not currently doing?

BROKAW: Well, what's interesting is we we have played this out. Stan and I have appeared with members of the private sector, CEOs and others who run the foundation for them. There is a kind of an active interest in it, in part because it fills some other needs if you can develop skill sets as well and bring to them a kind of finished product, if you will, an (end hire ?) of some kind. And then if you could work out the economics of it.

I mean, one of the things that I do think is that if we're going to ask these people to do what we're going to expect of them, we're going to have to pay them for it, frankly, to go into these dangerous areas and bring real skills to the areas.

And if I were to make a perfect case for it, we'd have the public/private cooperation, have a young man or a young woman go off and then come back after two or three years and go to the home office and have a whole new set of skills, not just hands-on skills, but language skills and cultural skills and political skills, knowing about what's going on in Sub-Saharan Africa, what's going on in Southeast Asia, and so they bring to the application process a kind of wholly formed 24 or 25-year old that they wouldn't have at 22 or 23. So that's part of the appeal for it.

And then I do think that corporate America has to understand that it does have a role in advancing the common interests of this country. And it's there, but we sometimes need to light a fire under it is what I think.

And it's been surprising, I think Stan has, that the corporate leaders have really been quite responsive to this idea, in part because they get a workforce that is operated in an unconventional fashion. It's the same—most of the people who are coming out of the military and going to work in the private sector now are rock stars because of their training and their mission orientation, their risk assessment. If you could apply that to the civilian side, it would have the same impact I hope.

KOPPELL: Well, one thing, just a specific thing, though, to answer the question could be that the employers could make a commitment to hire x number of people coming out of public service programs so that a person who does make the decision to do the public service year or two years knows that when he or she is done they then have a job waiting.

One of the funny things, I think, you know, from—I always think it's funny when people talk about ROTC like, oh, I have a service requirement. A lot of my students don't view that as a burden, they view it as a guaranteed job when they graduate. And there's a similar program for social work students, people may be familiar with, under Title 4E that you can get your social work education paid for and then you have a job guaranteed when you're done. So if an employer said, we will definitely hire 10 people who do this experience, then you know there's something at the end, you're not making a career sacrifice.

WELLONS: Much like Arizona State University, the city of Philadelphia, the state of Virginia, a number of organizations have decided to become employers of national service, that's what we're calling it. So you make it a priority to promote through your hiring requirements that you will employ, you will hire people, you will place a priority in hiring people who have completed service, whether that's Peace Corps service, Americorps service, Teach for America, but you place a priority on hiring people who come with those skills.

And they do, as Tom suggested, come with real skills. They're able to, you know, solve problems, they have great communication skills typically in a local language. They have the ability to work with meager resources. Most of our volunteers work in communities and live on subsistence allowances, so they do a lot with very little. So they are innovators. They have, you know, great ideas and work with communities that are very different from the communities that they perhaps come from on solving tough social problems.

They're the kind of people that you want to hire. They're the Chris Matthews of the world. They're the Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix is a return Peace Corps volunteer. And there's so many, I think, that we could probably rattle off who spent their time serving and came back and made a significant difference in the world.

MCCHRYSTAL: There's another selling point to the year's experience. To go into the military, you need to be a high school graduate, and it is not because they care about the education, it's because they found the correlation if you start something and see it to completion you're much more apt to serve effectively in the service.

And I think that's the same way with the service year. If you start it, whether it's Teach for America or any of these and you finish it, I think you are going to bring something that gives predictability for an employer.

BROKAW: OK. Last question from way on the aisle there.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Bob Goodkind and I want to bring the panel back 10 or 12 years ago. And I recollect after 9/11 and Katrina there was a movement acceptable to both Republicans and Democrats to push for an increase in Americorps, and indeed it was backed by the Republicans, Orrin Hatch, Ted Kennedy, McCain and Obama were big advocates for this.

And indeed, I think the legislation was passed. But as I also recollect, it was never funded because of the downturn in the economy.

So I'm just wondering whether the panel can fill me in on the possibility of getting that legislation funded and to be pushing our national candidates to put this back on the front burner.

BROKAW: Well, part of the reason that we're doing this traveling roadshow, and this is a group that contracts and expands, this the first time that all of us have been together, but I've been working with Jonathan and Stan, with others as well, is that we want to activate your interests in that, to get you to help put it on the political agenda.

This room is better equipped to do that than we are, to demand of them when they come and ask for your money or for your support, about where they stand on public service.

I haven't looked at the entire text today of Senator Cruz's announcement. I don't think public service came up at all, for example. And you don't hear it in any of the discussion now. You hear about almost everything else, but almost nothing about public service, which mystifies me, quite honestly. I mean, that's the core of who we should be, quite honestly.

And if we are what our politicians tell us we are, the greatest democracy on earth, and that we're extending the hopes and the dreams of our Founding Fathers, they wanted the idea that this is going to be a citizen democratic republic. And it's really up to you as much as it is up to us to get them involved.

Final observations, quickly. We'll just do kind of an ESPN round-the-horn here.

WELLONS: So I will just close by acknowledging my dear colleague from United Nations, United Nations Volunteers, who we do in fact share a very close relationship with. We actually work very closely hand-in-hand with the entire international volunteer-sending community and that includes organizations where at one point we sent volunteers to, like Korea, and now we have partnerships with, such as (INAUDIBLE) who also send volunteers around the world.

We're very excited about the prospect of expanding service generally, Peace Corps service specifically, and the dialogue that we've engaged in here.

MCCHRYSTAL: I think the thing that this time it's different because this is not a new idea. It's different because we have formed a coalition among all these different organizations and trying to push it forward as a common front . And I think that's what's important. But it's also the thing that gives me the most optimism and enthusiasm about it.

KOPPELL: I'm lucky to spend time around a university filled with students for whom the flame of service burns really brightly. So the notion that we have to ignite a flame is wrong. We have to stop extinguishing that flame. And so I think that, in some sense, what we're talking about is doing that, encouraging it, letting it grow brighter, feeding it, not trying to start something that doesn't exist already.

BEARD: I just really agree with that. I think that this generation, though some might view as complicated, is full of energy, like dying to make an impact, really cares about contributing in a positive way to our country and to the world. And it's up to us to figure out how we provide opportunities that are good ones and really allow people to, you know, find their passions and drive toward transformational change and leadership. And so just excited to be part of this and for you all's interest.

BROKAW: Well, I want to thank all of you.

And I want to thank our panel especially for being here. It's been a very engaging discussion.


Top Stories on CFR


How will Australia's election result affect the region, including U.S.-China competition?

Middle East and North Africa

Hezbollah and its allies suffered serious losses in May’s parliamentary elections, and a divided Parliament will likely struggle to agree on a path out of Lebanon’s current crisis.

Middle East and North Africa

Turkey’s geography and membership in NATO have long given the country an influential voice in foreign policy, but the assertive policies of President Erdogan have complicated its role.