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The time has come for compulsory foreign or domestic service.

Young people on the United States are crying out for the kind of structured, disciplined guidances it provides. This country has always renewed itself with an injection of the vigorous and exciting spirit of our young people and if ever we've needed an injection of hope and promise it is now.

Throughout our lives, we are confronted with situations which do not fit into the arbitrary boundaries we established for ourselves. Young people must learn that to succeed it takes teamwork.

Teamwork teaches us how to look beyond artificial boundaries of gender, race, economic or social circumstance. It teaches that as people, either we stand together or fall alone. It doesn't matter the color of your skin, the god you worship or how much money your father earned. These lessons are the core of success as individuals and as a nation.

Certainly there is a benefit to the nation if young people choose to serve. However, the most important aspect of this service is the opportunity for young people to learn that they do not stand alone in life and that mutual respect and the ability to work with others from different backgrounds is a life lesson that cannot be minimized.

This nation should immediately enact a policy of two years compulsory foreign or domestic service for every young man and woman between the ages of 18 and 20. This is a first step in a course of action that will restore hope and promise to our nation.

Everyone in this country who enjoys the promise, if not the reality, of freedom has an obligation to serve the nation in some capacity. Service to the country should not be viewed exclusively as military service, although that must be part of the mix, but rather a comprehensive menu of public service opportunities.

The opportunity for young people to work with inner-city youth or the elderly or to take part in a meaningful public-service project like the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s would establish a framework of cooperation, shared sacrifice and reward.

Certainly the nation would benefit from the infusion of energy and talent that young people would bring to the table, but beyond that the future leaders of our country would gain the strength of character so necessary to success as individuals and as a nation.

Upon leaving high school, every young man and woman should be required to perform two years of mandatory service to the country, earning education benefits as they do now for use upon release from service.

The concept of universal service should be debated fully and openly in the congress and in the town square. Our young people need to learn the life lessons that proximity to others from different circumstances can bestow upon them.

It is much too easy to dismiss the young as being unprepared or unwilling to be part of this great experiment we call the United States because of the isolated actions of a few. To reject their ideas and dreams as those of someone "to young to know better" is to further to push them outside the circle, away from those of us who not only encourage their contributions but recognize how important they are to the body politic.

I believe very strongly that the future of our country rests with the hands of the very people we scorn as unable to understand the complexities of the world they live in because they are too young.

Let's face it, as a generation we baby boomers have fouled things up pretty well. We go to the polls in ever decreasing numbers, turning our backs on a system that for all its faults at least provides us with the illusion of democracy, and then we have the audacity to criticize young people for their choices.

After an initial period of groaning and whining, universal service will be viewed as the best thing to happen since George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others sat down together and hammered out the frame-work of the most promising form of government the world has ever known.

I am convinced that, despite what we read, this generation of young American citizens is ready and willing to except the challenge of compulsory foreign or domestic service. Give our young people an opportunity to participate fully in our institutions and they will ultimately thank us by making this a little better place to live.

They deserve the chance.

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