Pres. Obama and Government Careers

images-4With record numbers of first-time voters and young people backing Obama’s presidency, perhaps a new generation of government workers will not be so hard to recruit after all.

With Baby Boomers retiring in droves over the next decade, fears have been widespread in public and nonprofit sectors that the United States will face a leadership shortage.

Not enough young people have shown an interest in government careers, and in-roads to government careers are not well known. Government has a reputation of being inefficient, less lucrative than business sector work, and very, very bureaucratic. People cite student loans that are just too high, and the need for better marketing of the compelling opportunities available in the government.

“This will not be a call issued in one speech or one program – this will be a central cause of my presidency. We will ask Americans to serve. We will create new opportunities for Americans to serve. And we will direct that service to our most pressing national challenges.”– U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama during a speech given at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs July 2, 2008.

John F. Kennedy inspired a generation of youth to serve through initiatives like Peace Corps. Will a new generation of people — young people and people who are recently discovering civic engagement — be inspired to join the ranks of an Obama-led federal government? What do you think?

If you are considering a career in government — whether you supported McCain or Obama during this election cycle — you should know about these resources:

President-Elect Obama has been particularly clear that his administration will count on the help of people who have supported his candidacy and on those who didn’t. Young people may accept this invitation by entering the government workforce. If they do so with the enthusiasm and turn-out they have shown in his election bid, the looming leadership crisis may fail to materialize.

Obama, McCain, and the future of national service

Major party candidates and their plans for national service

(Update on 9/11/08: this article from Chronicle of Philanthropy about the two Senators records on national service.)

Whatever you think of Senators Obama and McCain and their political parties, you probably hope that each of them has something valuable to add to the conversation about national service — after all, one of them will be president soon, and service corps alumni stand to fill the looming public service leadership shortage created as the Baby Boomer generation retires.

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Barack Obama on National Service

Obama’s plan is listed as an issue on his site, and is expansive: tripling AmeriCorps and doubling Peace Corps; creating new service corps on education, health care, clean energy & green jobs, veterans, and homeland security; and engaging baby boomers on a larger scale. Reading the plan, you get the idea that the stereotype of a national service participant will no longer be that of someone young and inexperienced, and in fact, that stereotypes no longer apply. Participants will represent a wide cross-section of the United States, people who come to a term-of-service opportunity for many reasons. Read more on his web site, or download the plan (PDF). (His plan also addresses military service.)

Note that some service corps programs such as Peace Corps are currently shrinking number of participants due to budget restrictions.

Video from Service Vote ’08:

Here is Obama speaking Sept. 11 as part of the Service Nation Summit:

John McCain on National Service

McCain‘s plan has not been easy to track down, though he has been supportive of AmeriCorps, and was the first of the two candidates to agree to speak at the Service Nation Summit. In 2001, he published this article in The Washington Monthly explaining his views on the topic. McCain worked with Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) in 2001 to try to expand national service, but has said that the war in Iraq has pushed these efforts to the “sidelines.” And in 2003 McCain worked to ask President Bush not to cut funding of AmeriCorps. (For some analysis of McCain’s history on the topic of national service, read “Service Interruption” by Washington Monthly‘s Paul Glastris. Also check out Steve Benen on “McCain, Obama, and National Service.”)

Video from Service Vote ’08:

Here is the first part of McCain’s interview on Sept. 11 at the Service Nation Summit: