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Mandatory National Service Debate in the US

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1236 words Published: 11th Jul 2018

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Many countries require all young adults to serve two or more years in the military as a way of providing security to their country and as a rite of passage as a citizen. The United States however does not. The closest thing to mandatory service is selective service, and until recently that only applied to male citizens age 18-25. The idea of mandatory service has gained momentum in the last few years and many lawmakers have proposed that the United States adopt this policy. Some are opposed to the idea of mandatory military service, and I agree deciding to risk your life in the defense of your country should be a personal choice, not an obligation. However, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity, and Teach for America are all programs that supports our country, develops unity, and teaches young adults valuable work skills. The pre-amble to the constitution talks about the responsibility we have as citizens to establish justice, provide for common defense, and promote general welfare, and “We the People” means everyone equally. Most will agree that democracy only works when citizens are involved and unified with a common purpose. John F. Kennedy once said, “ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country” (Kennedy). Unity starts with equality and equality starts with mandatory national service. It is a simple idea; one or two years of national service should become a countrywide requirement for all young adults as way to build unity, develop a sense of identity and provide a valuable service to their community.

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Most people can agree that America is more divided than ever; we lack unity and commitment to our democracy. The only way we can effectively unify and regain our sense of community is through mandatory national service. Wars unfortunately bind people together, build a sense of community and provides a common purpose, “Veterans of any war share a common experience, the intensity of which creates strong and enduring relationships” (Grigsby). However, war is not what binds these people together, it is the sense of service to their nation, community, each other and the greater good.

Much like the military, programs like the Peace Corp and AmeriCorps show signs of creating loyalty and unity among participants. These programs bring together people of different races and backgrounds to solve complex problems that face their communities and if not for this program, their paths may have never crossed, “Service creates an opportunity to work on problems of public concern and participate in the lives of others whose paths one might otherwise never cross in a structured and supportive environment” (Frumkin and Miller). In addition, it garners respect and empathy for others, “Some evidence exists to suggest that full-time AmeriCorps members acquire valuable civic attributes, such as cultivating respect for others” (Reingold and Lenkowsky). Many great people have said, there is no greater honor than service to your country, and commitment to a cause greater than yourself.

Some argue that Americans should not have to earn their citizenship through mandatory service and is a violates their freedoms or a form of slavery; even if they choose how they serve. Many leverage the 13th amendment in opposition to mandatory national service, which states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist in the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (Pauwels).  I agree that our constitution affords us this right, and many other rights; the right to free speech, freedom of religion and the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. However, I feel that with these rights comes responsibility. The responsibility of all citizens to support and defend our constitution, be active in our communities and be involved in the democratic process. Today two things represent citizenship in America, voting and paying taxes. A government of the people, for the people and by the people certainly implies more commitment.

Others believe that mandatory service delays education and work opportunities. However, I contend that national service provides both. Many of the programs available provide current volunteers with opportunities to learn valuable life and work skills that will only enhance their education and growth, “One benefit of national service it thus thought to reside in its ability to open up the minds of young people to the full range of life choices available to them. While they may think, they are working for others, they may end up learning about themselves” (Frumkin and Miller). There is no greater life experience than witnessing and understanding the struggle of others.

Regardless of our position on mandatory national service, I think we can agree that it is vital to maintaining unity, equality, and our democracy. Mandatory national service ensures “We the People” are involved in protecting the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. In addition, the life skills, and the opportunity for young people to see issues from a different perspective only enhances the long-term education of our youth. I will agree, there are some issues with mandated national service, like mandated military service. As I stated before, the decision to risk your life for your country should be a choice one makes, not an obligation. However, believe that all Americans should be required to serve at least one or two years in other programs that support our country and protects our democracy.


Frumkin, Peter and Brendan Miller. “Visions of National Service.” Society 45.5 (2008): 436-443. ProQuest. Web. 20 Dec 2016.

Frumkin and Miller discuss how national service has alternatively been a way to promote an active and engaged citizenship, accelerate personal growth, social capital and meet critical social needs.

Grigsby, Carol A. “Binding the Nation: National Service in America.” Parameters 38.4 (2008): 109-123. ProQuest. Web. 14 Dec 2016.

Grigsby discusses how soldiers have a connection to each other because of war, a life-long bond because they have seen and experienced the same thing.

Kennedy, John F. Inagrual Address. 1961. Web. 22 Dec 2016. .

Kennedy’s inaugural address discusses issues that face all Americans regardless of party, and how we only succeed if we work together.

Pauwels, Andrew M. “Mandatory National Service: Creating Generations of Civic Minded Citizens.” Notre Dame Law Review 88.5 (2013). ProQuest. Web. 20 Dec 2016.

Pauwels discusses the legality of mandatory service and articles of the constitution that specifically address involuntary servitude.

Reingold, David A. and Leslie Lenkowsky. “The Future of National Service.” Public Administration Review 70.S1 (2010): S114-S121. ProQuest. Web. 20 Dec 2016.

Reingold discusses the pros and cons of national service and leverages several studies to show the benefits and issues with AmeriCorps.


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