Now affluent kids go to schools and colleges with similar people and, afterward, work is usually not much different. They don’t know anyone who never used a toothbrush or cries in the night for his mother or speaks in a Southern accent so thick in molasses it might as well be a foreign language. These folks do not, in short, know America.
…Often the virtue of national service is described in the work done — public service projects of one sort of another. Fine. Spiff up the slums. Do some social work. But to me, the overriding virtue is education — learning about fellow Americans, getting past skin color or regional smugness, stereotypes that the rich have of the poor and the poor have of the rich. We need a national service that throws us all together, the urban with the rural, the Fox News types with the MSNBC crowd. That way, Americans can get to know Americans and learn — as previous generations did — that we are all Americans.