Increasingly I’m in favor of a universal draft in the U.S.  Every person between the ages of 18 and 24, both men and women, “able” or “disabled” (whatever those terms mean.

Here’s why.

I’m working on a story about two AmeriCorps members.  Sarah Sadowski didn’t know where she wanted to go with her life when she graduated from high school.  She did a ten month gig with the National Civilian Community Corps program of AmeriCorps, an experience which reinforced the value of service to her community, gave her confidence and maturity, allowed her time to figure out a direction in life and gave the opportunity to bond with young adults from all over the country.  She’s now a sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan.  Her father says he can see the difference in maturity between Sarah and the rest of her classmates.

Mandy Gawf has known what she wanted to do since she was in middle school—help people on the fringes of society.  Majoring in sociology and philosophy in college she applied to the Vista program in AmeriCorps and to West Suburban PADS in our area.  She is also gaining confidence, but unlike Sarah who did manual labor, Mandy is really doing a two year internship in her chosen profession—helping people who have fallen through the cracks. She is bonding with her colleagues at PADS who treat her as a fellow staff member and gaining invaluable experience in running a nonprofit.

I’ve also had experience with the Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints.  Many of their young men give a year of their own lives—on their own dime by the way—in service to their church.  The Mormon Church is one of the fastest growing churches in the U.S.

By a universal draft I obviously don’t mean just the military but include programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.  What I dream of is:

1 experiences of everyone having a “give back to society” experience early in their adult lives,

2 experiences in which Yankees meet southerners, blacks bond with whites, straights gain             respect for gays,

3 people from the 1% see what life is like for the rest of us

4 participants learn skills and attain confidence