Did We Forget?

Another Veterans Day has come and gone. There have been some parades, some ceremonies and a few nice moments. The sun has set and the finger of attention has moved on to Thanksgiving, Christmas and the upcoming various holidays.

It seemed like after 9-11 things would be different. Love of country and love of those who support her were reinvigorated. We would never forget. We would never grow complacent again. Yet, here we are.

Earlier generations had their moments. The Greatest Generation had Pearl Harbor; the entire nation worked and fought for four years and then proudly carried that spirit on decade after decade. The Baby Boomers heard a new generation’s President say, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” They responded by joining a new Peace Corps, fighting for civil rights and fighting a war on poverty. Again, here we are.

Today, less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military. One of our two political parties is now based on the idea that government is our biggest problem and those who work for government are our biggest slackers. Whatever energy and momentum we had after 9-11 has dissipated and been wasted.

I think we can and we should do better. I think ASPA could play a part. While not all young people attend college, a good number do. Large or small, public or private, across college curricula there is a section of coursework reserved for general/breadth education. Here in this knowledge nook could and should be some small but significant focus on public service and civic engagement.

ASPA could work to draw on the best and brightest practices existing in academic programs and develop a set of public service center models suitable to small, medium and large universities. Who better than ASPA to develop such a set of sustained sequences of learning and service to educate, engage and develop America’s youth in this crucial area?

With ASPA’s leadership, we could once again introduce the notion to Millennials and future generations—but this time on a sustained basis. As part of their college experience is also part of the American experience, we could instill that it is about “doing” for your country and for your community. Not just in college. Not just on 9-11. Not just on Veterans Day or on Memorial Day, but every day.

Submitted by Craig Donovan


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