WASHINGTON, D.C.- A dozen leaders—including two former cabinet members, private sector and federal agency CEOs, and nonprofit and service advocates—highlighted the critical role of service in addressing current and future challenges and called for action on the recommendations of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service at the Commission’s culminating event on June 25.
The program featured opening remarks from Commission Chairman Joseph J. Heck, interviews with Former Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA Leon Panetta and Ambassador Susan Rice, and two panel discussions.
Chairman Heck highlighted the need for action given the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. He noted the positive reception for the Commission’s report in Congress, including the introduction of the Inspired to Serve Act by a bipartisan group of House members, the inclusion of national service proposals in Senate legislation addressing COVID-19, and the addition of other recommends in the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
In a discussion with CNN’s Michael Smerconish, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta cited the need to expand service opportunities for young people and applauded the Commission’s recommendation to expand Selective Service registration to all Americans.
“I believe what the Commission recommended in terms of allowing women to be part of the Selective Service System is right. If they can serve in the military and put their lives on the line, there is no reason why they should not be part of the Selective Service System if we need them in a national emergency,” Panetta said.
Former National Security Advisor and UN Ambassador Susan Rice cited the role of her family in instilling the value of service, going all the way back to her great grandfather, who was a slave who fought in the Union Army. “I want to let everyone who is considering being part of service, please do it - whether military service, government service, public service, or some form of national service. In my experience there is nothing more gratifying or rewarding or meaningful then being able to serve with your countrymen and serve your country.”
Ambassador Rice commended the Commission’s final report, calling it “first-class work,” noting it “provides a roadmap for a Congress and administration that are committed to service to really bring it to fruition.”
In a panel discussing building a culture of service in America, Commissioner Janine Davidson cited how the COVID-19 crisis has been a “wake-up call for public service.”
“The report has recommendations to make the country more prepared and resilient. Like strengthening preparedness for a future public health crisis, natural disasters, and other natural emergencies; more effectively mobilizing the nation during emergencies; and placing critically skilled people and volunteers where they're needed,” Davidson said.
The second panel focused on tactical ways to carry the Commission’s recommendations forward.
Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Barbara Stewart pointed out how national service programs have quickly pivoted to respond to COVID-19, including innovative partnerships to support contact tracing. Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, also highlighted the need for new approaches, saying “innovation is fundamental.”
“This is a moment in which we are seeing great change in our government. One of the things we're looking at is can we harvest innovations that are taking place now [during the pandemic] so that we can advocate to make those the normal practice going forward,” Stier said.
The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, created in 2017, is the first entity in history charged with conducting comprehensive and holistic review of all forms of service. After two and a half years of research, public hearings, and conversations with Americans across the country, the bipartisan 11-member Commission released its final report, Inspired to Serve, to the Congress, the President, and the American people in March. With 164 recommendations, the report provides a bold vision and comprehensive plan to reform selective service and strengthen all forms of service to address critical national security and domestic needs, invigorate civil society, and strengthen American democracy.
“Although this is our culminating event, and the Commission is winding down, the path forward for service must continue,” said Chairman Joseph Heck. “We call on Congress and the President to invest in the American people and the security of the nation by taking action. But we also call on all of you. To carry the charge forward to build on America spirit of service to nurture promote and expand a culture of service. This is vital to securing the nation's future.”
The Commission’s work will conclude in September 2020.