I begin with an apology for the three generations that preceded you. I am 72 and a member of the generation of your grand and sometimes great grand-parents. My generation did many things to change our society for the better, sometimes in street demonstrations resembling those you see now in Europe and the Middle East, but we never valued what we had or how we, as Americans, were succeeding. We forgot how to govern ourselves.
And perhaps for that reason, my generation, born between 1925 and 1945, never raised a President. It followed that the post-war generation of Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush would be ill -equipped and unconstrained by the historical perspective necessary to govern *the* Superpower in a unipolar world. As a consequence, your generation, including your older brothers and sisters, have been robbed of the security and promise which supported my youth. Your generation has compensated with new means to communicate and ways to frame your identities. And it is from these ways and means, new ways and means to govern ourselves must emerge. Your generation can master the new because you are already creating it. This site, with your help, tests that idea.
The Site opens with Professor Sheldon Wolin’s 1988 discussion about American democracy. The democracy he describes differs from the democracy many of us believe ourselves and advertise ourselves to be a part of. Twenty-five years later, your chance to judge the accuracy of his assessment is just beginning.
And, as if on cue, the generations preceding yours are giving you a unique opportunity for judging the meaning of our “Democracy.” The people and institutions that influence the policies of our country have announced that they are committed to providing you a “right of passage” to citizenship called National Service.
The study of the details of this proposal, the motivation and goals of its proponents, and its meaning and effect on the members of your generation, now and in the future, should be matters on which you and your generation should be heard, now.
I hope that you will seize the moment to craft your own definition of “citizenship.” Should you need greater incentive than that opportunity, know that these institutions and people are among those that dimmed the futures of the generation previous to yours by engaging their patriotism in needless, undeclared war.
You can make peace happen.
Let’s pick-up on Tuesday with the following site as reference.