July 15, 2005: Headlines: Figures: USA Freedom Corps: Service: Speaking Out: Older Volunteers: Cincinnati Post: John M. Bridgeland writes: An example for Boomers

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John M. Bridgeland writes: An example for Boomers

John M. Bridgeland writes: An example for Boomers

"Efforts to foster a civic reawakening after Sept. 11, 2001 have been successful in boosting volunteerism, increasing national service programs and engaging Americans in protecting the homeland. But one gap is the failure to engage the millions of Baby Boomers who will start to retire as early as next January."

John M. Bridgeland writes: An example for Boomers

An example for Boomers
By John M. Bridgeland


On a round trip train from Washington to New York City recently, I sat with two representatives of the "Greatest Generation'' - Harris Wofford on the trip up and John Glenn on the trip back. As 77 million Baby Boomers enter retirement over the next two decades, these men are reminders of the complete and happy life, rich in public service and civic engagement.

Wofford recalled how he almost volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force at 17, since he could not enlist in the U.S. until a year later. Wofford went on to serve in World War II, act as President Kennedy's Special Assistant on Civil Rights, help Sargent Shriver found the Peace Corps, serve in the U.S. Senate, lead AmeriCorps, and co-chair America's Promise.

Glenn's public service is even better known. After flying more than 100 combat missions in World War II and Korea, Glenn piloted the Mercury "Friendship 7'' spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission, served in the U.S. Senate, chaired many commissions, joined the crew of Discovery at the age of 77 and established an institute of public service.

Service is clearly in their DNA.

Both men are now in or past their 80th year, and as we work to reawaken civic sentiments across the country, they are constantly appearing at conferences on service and civic engagement. Glenn spoke at the recent inaugural event of "Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement" in New York City about the need for more American history and civics education, so our young people understand their heritage and the responsibilities that come with freedom. He also called for a Manhattan Project of sorts to make America the leader in math and science education. Wofford is a regular speaker at conferences to strengthen community and national service - programs such as Peace Corps and City Year - that provide people one or two years of full-time service to help those in need abroad and at home.

Efforts to foster a civic reawakening after Sept. 11, 2001 have been successful in boosting volunteerism, increasing national service programs and engaging Americans in protecting the homeland. But one gap is the failure to engage the millions of Baby Boomers who will start to retire as early as next January.

Here are examples of what might be done:

Congress should ramp up Senior Corps to enlist more than one million retirees every year to mentor and tutor disadvantaged youth and help homebound seniors.

Retirees whose work income requires continued payment of Social Security taxes (even though they would not receive further Social Security benefits) should be able to designate a portion of those taxes to non-profits in which they serve for a minimum number of hours.

A $1,000 Silver Scholarship, which could be passed on to a family member or a student they have helped, should be given to seniors who tutor disadvantaged children for 500 hours.

Schools should adopt programs that regularly enlist seniors to tutor, and share their career experiences, with students.

Faith-based institutions should ask retirees to help serve the poor and needy, and bring people of different faiths together to do so.

A bipartisan commission should be created to generate new ways to engage Baby Boomers in service to the nation.

When I asked Glenn if he would ever enjoy retirement, he replied, "I don't have time." When I asked Wofford why he continued to serve, he quoted Alexander Hamilton from Federalist 1 and talked about the importance of action to support freedom at home and abroad.

As a Baby Boomer myself, I take heart from such men and believe our generation can continue the traditions of the Greatest Generation.

John M. Bridgeland, a native of Ohio, was former director of the White House Domestic Policy and U.S.A. Freedom Corps under President George W. Bush. He is CEO of Civic Enterprises.

When this story was posted in July 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Cincinnati Post

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; USA Freedom Corps; Service; Speaking Out; Older Volunteers


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