During a time in which a good chunk of people aren’t fans of federal government (or who’s in charge of it), when there is distrust of law enforcement and politicians in charge, and when government is negatively targeting entire groups of people while benefiting others, it may not be a good time to do mandatory anything, especially mandatory volunteer service for all.
That’s not to say Beto O’Rourke’s idea is a bad one, it’s just one of those policy things that gets pretty mucked up when people demand specifics rather than general campaign talking points. Because entire groups of people can get screwed once specifics are discussed. It’s kind of like how I feel when I hear politicians say they “support comprehensive immigration reform.” I want specifics because too many times, specifics like walls or temporary worker visas or “legalization vs citizenship” can screw entire groups of people.
As a young college student, I had big dreams of serving my community, state, and nation. No, not in the military, but in helping run things–legislation, departments, etc. Being a poor kid from South Texas living on student loans and the few grants that hadn’t been cut yet, though, it was hard to “volunteer” for a government internship, drive 80 miles a day to/from Austin, and try to impress some VIPs when bills had to be paid. So, a non-political job on campus and one in a call center had to do, while kids with influential parents or just plain ol’ family money could get most of the opportunities. Needless to say, sometimes one has to make ones own opportunities to do what one enjoys.
That said, the thought of a mandatory volunteer service program brought back memories about how it might work. Will the rich kids get the better volunteer opportunities with a phone call and a campaign donation? Can a poor kid from South Texas get some sort of incentive and “political” support that the privileged brats usually get to end up in a good opportunity? Because the service should end up amounting to something tangible, and not just student loan forgiveness and a spot on the resume detailing some crappy mandatory volunteer placement. In other words, how exactly would it work? Given that it’s mandatory, folks should have equality of options and not just the usual placement made by a political appointee.
I’ll be honest, I enjoyed some placement assistance when I was a teen in need of work. In my little town of 8,000 in South Texas, one of my dearest friends’ dads was the local city manager. So, when I put in my application for a job through JTPA (look it up), my friend advised her dad to pick me. She knew of my love of government at an early age and work ethic, so, her dad trusted the recommendation. Working for $3.35 an hour in the City’s finance department and sometimes being shared with the Planning Department was a great experience. Unfortunately, when a small-town kid moves to the big college and wants to work in big government, the lack of opportunity because of forces out of ones control was quite the shock. Which is why options are important so that one doesn’t have to go through friends and connections.
So, yeah, no doubt being of service is important, but specifics are very important. And ensuring equality of opportunity is even more important. And without that kind of specificity (and bad memories of getting passed up by brats), it was just too hard to embrace Beto’s idea.