Is Steven Waldman right about Obama missing the National Service moment?

Steven Waldman, author of The Bill (a book tracking the legislation that spawned AmeriCorps), writes in a commentary his thoughts on Obama missing the boat by not enhancing national service through the economic stimulus package. His point is that building up AmeriCorps would accomplish many of the same economic goals as flowing money toward infrastructure projects.

I agree with almost everything Waldman writes about how national service is a relatively cheap solution to many problems including unemployment among young people. At the same time, the way to enhance national service is not by throwing money at it. You can give 250,000 Americans grey sweatshirts and boots on January 20 and send them out to work. But for me the volunteer experience requires learning as you go and making connections to the community while you serve. The quality of the experience is as important as the service itself if part of the goal is encourage Americans to make volunteerism a lifelong commitment rather than a quick fix. Meaningful improvements to national service will not happen overnight.

My hope is that all Americans in need of work find what they need to get by, and that President Obama thoughtfully expands national service so it can become a lasting part of the solution.

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