Americans have valued national service since before our nation’s formal founding. Arguably one of our greatest strengths historically has been our understanding that service is not secondary or perfunctory toward building the country that we want to live in today and tomorrow, but central to it.

We must remember and renew that tradition today. This is not rhetoric. For every $1 spent on national service, our country gains close to $4 in value, with healthier and stronger communities.

In the past couple of decades alone, service opportunities have helped reduce youth unemployment while literally teaching our children, rebuilding our homes in the aftermath of disasters, supporting veterans and military families and fighting poverty. In other words, building our stronger shared future.

I cannot remember a time when service was not central to my family – as a calling for my parents absolutely – but also as an ideal, a core belief that everyone who wants to serve our country should be afforded the opportunity to do so. For my father, that perspective on our American social contract manifested in a myriad of ways, most notably in starting the AmeriCorps program.

Now, 20 years later, close to a million people have contributed more than 1 billion hours of service through AmeriCorps— tackling real problems and improving the lives of citizens across our country, working hand in hand with multiple levels of government, the private sector and civil society.

Yet, there are many more young Americans who apply for these positions than there are positions available. We know Millennials want to give back to their communities, but often they don’t know how, or if they know how, they lack opportunities to do so. There is both an awareness gap and, among those who are already aware and want to serve, a gap between the demand for service opportunities and their supply.



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Day of Action volunteers work at the Arkansas Food Bank earlier this month.


At this past Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in September, we announced a commitment that will work to shrink both of those. The National Service Alliance and their partners, including the Clinton Foundation, launched “Service Year,” a four-year campaign that encourages young Americans to participate in a year of service, and creates a new ecosystem around how young people can discover the service opportunities that are the best fit for what they want to contribute and how they want to serve.

Specifically, the commitment will set up a 21st Century digital platform that will certify new “Service Year” positions while also providing a robust search and match function that allows people to search for the service opportunity they are looking for and match them with the right organization. The partners will also recruit private sector employers committed to valuing service experience in their hiring – as well as higher education institutions committed to valuing service in how they award class credits.



Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Clinton

To help highlight the opportunities that do exist and to raise the pressure for even more opportunities, the Clinton Foundation is also teaming up with Service Nation on a cultural campaign where we’re encouraging show runners, screenwriters and other members of the entertainment industry to integrate the concept of national service into the scripts of TV shows and into the lives of their characters.

We hope we succeed in not only showing why service is a smart choice for individuals today, but also that it is a path to future employment and a stronger future for all of us.

It’s my hope that in the near future we can make service a respected, appreciated and viable option for any and all young people – whether that’s a year of service before or after college, making service a possible lifetime career or making service an ongoing part of their lives in other ways.

The result would be transformational -- a generation of Americans working together to address our nation's biggest needs, and in the process creating the strong, active and civic-minded leaders our country requires.

If we want to elevate service, we have to work together, from government to the private sector. I’m grateful and glad that Coca-Cola is leading through encouraging a culture of service, and I hope other companies will follow.

Across the country and across the world, we’re seeing young people turn their frustration, even anger, into positive change and lasting good.

If we want to change the world, we have to start with our communities. Working together, one day at a time, we will make a difference.


Chelsea Clinton is vice chair of the Clinton Foundation.