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Community Service
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I have held the opinion for many years that every citizen of this country, having benefited from a free public education, public works providing (among other things) clean water and public libraries, establishment of personal freedoms and security not found in many other countries, and so on—should, at some point (probably after completion of their school years and before setting out on a career and family) serve at least two years in public community service to the city, the country or the world.

This service could take any one of many forms—Peace Corps, VISTA, Habitat for Humanity, Armed Services are just a few. I myself served in the Peace Corps for two years, and my husband was in Army Intelligence. I have always admired President Carter for devoting years of service after his presidency to Habitat for Humanity and other efforts for peace, when he could have sat on his laurels and given speeches and accepted the plaudits of the sychophants. Instead, he has turned his “Golden Years” to gold.

I read in the BBC News today that the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Gordon Brown, officially called Gordon Brown (following the Roman habit of use of personal versus public names) has said that people seeking citizenship should do community work. He said that citizenship and language tests did not go far enough.

Citizenship, he averred, is more than a ceremony; it is a “contract between the citizen and the country involving rights but also involving responsibilities that will protect and enhance the British way of life.” He looked at the issue as one of building a sense of national purpose.

The community service need not be compulsory, but such service would weigh in the applicant’s favor, as would demonstration of a fluency in English as well. After all, what binds together a country is mutual understanding and tolerance, and a shared sense of purpose. How can a people understand and work together if they can’t (and don’t) talk to each other?

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