Serving The Country

bob schieffer
The other night the president urged people who want to join the war on terrorism to join the Peace Corps and other volunteer organizations.

It is a great idea, but here's why I won't be elected president. I would ask Congress to pass a law making it mandatory that everyone at age 18 would be required to give one year of service to the country. Just a year, in the military or teaching or at a hospital or in the Peace Corps.

When I was coming up, we didn't have a choice. It was, be drafted into the Army for two years or take ROTC in college and spend three years in the service as an officer.

I chose Air Force ROTC, not for noble reasons. Because it was a better deal is why I chose it than two years as an Army grunt.

But it was the best thing I ever did. I did things I would have never done, and I was thrown together with people from every corner and every walk of America.

I thought about that as a watched the Enron hotshots explain their financial expertise to Congress last week. They all went to the best schools. But I wondered if they might have been more sensitive to their workers if they had been exposed to the cross section of Americans they might have met in a draft Army.

In ROTC we were taught that a leader's first responsibility is to his people. Were the Enron officers thinking of their people, the shareholders and the Enron workers? Did they even know any of the workers who lost their life's savings? Or did they follow the farmer's rule; don't name an animal you may have to eat?

We'll never see the draft again. But we need to find a way to bring young people from every strata of America together. The draft did that. It helped us to know each other and to know the pride that only comes when we feel we've been part of making something better. The draft forced those lessons on my generation.

I don't know if the country benefited from my small service, but I sure did.

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