Want a better, safer world? Volunteer.
Employment, education, and peace are interlinked.
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Now apply these numbers to a city such as Baltimore, with relatively high unemployment and school dropout rates approaching near-pandemic levels. Baltimore maintains one of the lowest secondary school graduation rates in the country, only about 34 percent who enter, graduate. The fact that the city also tops the charts on violent crime with five times the national murder rate, three times the national robbery rate, and nearly three times the national aggravated assault and arson rates, is not lost on city educators and labor departments.Skip to next paragraph
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Or apply these numbers to the US security quagmires, such as the tribal regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where unemployment rates are staggeringly high, educational enrollment is low, and average income rates are as meager as $15 per month. The violence there, too, is not coincidental.
Shriver understood this dynamic and realized how poverty could benefit from service, which is why he was charged with tackling this nation's first war on poverty. Surmising the serious security threat facing America, internally and externally, Shriver helped organize the Peace Corps, VISTA, and other service-based programs to address poverty here and abroad.
Almost 50 years later, his message is as poignant as ever, which is why Sens. Edward Kennedy and Orrin Hatch are spearheading a bipartisan Serve America Act to bolster volunteerism across the board – from a Clean Energy Service Corps to an Education Corps to a Healthy Futures Corps.
This type of bipartisan effort is exactly what is needed during these economic downturns.
Poverty is not political, nor is the need or call for service. Helping our neighbors through public service, whether on this continent or another, brings a broad spectrum of benefits, from boosted self-esteem to a bolstered sense of security. It serves the greater good of our community and theirs.
Whether it is through the Peace Corps, internationally, or through AmeriCorps, nationally, we who are privileged enough at this point in history to be employed, fed, and sheltered must reach out a helping hand to those without.
Michael Honda, a Democratic congressman from California served as a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador from 1965-67. Thomas Petri, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, served as a PCV in Somalia from 1966-67.