Teriyaki Burritos and National Service

Ever had a teriyaki burrito? They’re delicious! But I’ll come back to the tastiness of mixed cultural cuisines later.

Okay, now I'm hungry.
Okay, now I’m hungry.

First, let’s talk about National Service — and why we need it. If there’s one thing apparent from recent events, it’s that the U.S. is not simply “divided.” We’re fractured along numerous fault lines. You can name them yourself. And then you can agree with me (see how that works!) that the best way to “heal” these breaks is for them never to have occurred in the first place.

Looking back on my experience attending a college with a broad representation of students from around the U.S. and abroad, it’s hard not to take for granted that I met, befriended and remain friends (after nearly 40 years) with a pretty diverse bunch. But why should a young American only get the experience I got if s/he can get into (and afford) a highly competitive college? Shouldn’t all of our young people — from all class backgrounds — benefit from a meaningful, constructive and heterogeneous experience that transforms them into better citizens and better people? And moving forward from that experience, shouldn’t investment bankers know dock workers personally? Shouldn’t college professors know people who shoot their own dinner personally? You get my drift.

National Service (in broad strokes):
Think about it as an updated version of AmeriCorps VISTA meets the old CCC.

  • Two years of mandatory civilian or military service. And no, you can’t buy your way out of it. You must have completed your service (or something equivalent for those with physical disabilities) to be able to register to vote.
  • You get paid at the same rate as a military enlistee, and can work your way up in rank and pay to the level typical of enlistees within two years.
  • Upon completion of your service, in addition to being automatically registered to vote, you become eligible for education and/or small business startup grants (not loans) to apply as you see fit. Want to go to college? Want to open a beauty salon? Want to develop an app? If you’re from a background where you don’t need the college money, put it into a retirement fund. But you can only spend/use the grant on education, business startup or retirement savings.
  • The rest you can figure out. Energetic and innovative young people work on important projects in the national interest: infrastructure revitalization (not just construction, but data analytics, etc.); elder care; youth mentoring and so on…plus the usual military stuff if you go that way.

If we do it right, we might end up with a lot more teriyaki burritos — however you wish to define that concept. Heck, it’s already happening. And it’s a good thing.

New York Times:
For Interracial Couples, Growing Acceptance, With Some Exceptions
“In 2013, 12 percent of all new marriages were interracial, the Pew Research Center reported. According to a 2015 Pew report on intermarriage, 37 percent of Americans agreed that having more people marrying different races was a good thing for society, up from 24 percent only four years earlier; 9 percent thought it was a bad thing.”

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