Ever since my car accident in 2002, my life’s goal has been pretty clear: to serve and better the lives of children and youth.
This has been kind of hard to explain to other people when they ask me, “Why? Why don’t you just work in the private sector now, make lots of money, and then donate that money to some charity?”
How can you explain your passion? If I were as passionate about singing opera or coding software programs, would I need to explain myself over and over again for those?
I just read an article in Time magazine that helps to explain my drive to serve children and youth, and my hopeful vision to be able to do this on a wider scale in the near future.
Here’s an excerpt and link to the article:
As the Constitutional Convention of 1787 came to a close, after three and a half months of deliberation, a lady asked Dr. Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic,” replied the Doctor, “if you can keep it.”
â€” ANECDOTE FROM THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787, ED., MAX FARRAND, VOL. 3, APPENDIX A, 1911
A republic, if you can keep it. The founders were not at all optimistic about the future of the Republic. There had been only a handful of other republics in all of human history, and most were small and far away. The founders’ pessimism, though, came not from history but from their knowledge of human nature. A republic, to survive, needed not only the consent of the governed but also their active participation. It was not a machine that would go of itself; free societies do not stay free without the involvement of their citizens.
Today the two central acts of democratic citizenship are voting and paying taxes. That’s basically it. The last time we demanded anything else from people was when the draft ended in 1973. And yes, there are libertarians who believe that government asks too much of us â€” and that the principal right in a democracy is the right to be left alone â€” but most everyone else bemoans the fact that only about half of us vote and don’t do much more than send in our returns on April 15. The truth is, even the archetype of the model citizen is mostly a myth. Except for times of war and the colonial days, we haven’t been all that energetic about keeping the Republic.
When Americans look around right now, they see a public-school system with 38% of fourth graders unable to read at a basic level; they see the cost of health insurance escalating as 47 million people go uninsured; they see a government that responded ineptly to a hurricane in New Orleans; and they see a war whose ends they do not completely value or understand.
But there is something else we are seeing in the land. Polls show that while confidence in our democracy and our government is near an all-time low, volunteerism and civic participation since the ’70s are near all-time highs. Political scientists are perplexed about this. If confidence is so low, why would people bother volunteering? The explanation is pretty simple. People, especially young people, think the government and the public sphere are broken, but they feel they can personally make a difference through community service. After 9/11, Americans were hungry to be asked to do something, to make some kind of sacrifice, and what they mostly remember is being asked to go shopping. The reason private volunteerism is so high is precisely that confidence in our public institutions is so low. People see volunteering not as a form of public service but as an antidote for it.
That is not a recipe for keeping a republic.
Read more here.