Nearly 30 years after John F. Kennedy urged young Americans to ask what they can do for their country, some lawmakers want to give them a financial incentive to serve - help paying for college or a first home.
Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., Sen.-elect Charles Robb, D-Va., and Rep. Dave McCurdy, D-Okla., say they plan to introduce a bill in the early days of the 101st Congress that would provide national service vouchers worth $10,000 to $12,000 of federal aid for each year of service.Supporters say the proposal is based on the GI bill, which provides educational and housing funds to millions of veterans. Its inspiration, they say, stemmed from President Kennedy's 1961 call to youth to "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
"Just maybe . . . the time has come when youth want to stand for something a little grander than the accumulation of personal wealth," Robb said in an interview. "Maybe the whole `Me generation' has run its course."
And maybe, he added, echoing President-elect Bush's campaign theme, "we can produce a kinder, gentler Yuppie."
The group also has won early support for the concept from newly elected Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell of Maine, his spokeswoman Diane Dewhurst said.
The latest proposal, based on a report issued last May by the Democratic Leadership Council - a group of mostly Southern, centrist Democrats that was once headed by Robb and now by Nunn - would create a volunteer "citizens corps" of 18- to 26-year-olds and a smaller corps of senior citizens.
The citizens corps would perform either a minimum of one year of community work, such as tutoring or working on housing projects, or serve two years in the military or reserves for a small monthly stipend.
In return, community workers would receive a $10,000 voucher for each year of service that could be used for college, to finance vocational or job training or to make a down payment on a home. Military volunteers would receive $12,000 for each year served because of the greater risk and longer minimum time.