The official website of President-Elect Barack Obama, Change.gov, originally announced that Obama would “require” all middle school through college students to participate in community service programs; but after a flurry of blogs protested children being drafted into Obama’s proposed youth corps, the website’s wording was softened.
Originally, under the tab “America Serves” Change.gov read, “President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in under served schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps.
“Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year,” the site announced.
The language of requiring students to serve and the creation of a “Classroom Corps” sparked a surge of criticism from bloggers for bringing back memories of the much-publicized video of marching Obama youth and Obama’s “civilian national security force,” which the candidate said in July would be just as powerful and well-funded as the U.S. military.
Gateway Pundit called Obama’s plan the “creation of his Marxist youth corps,” and DBKP commented, “‘Choosing’ to serve should be approved by parents – not required by the government. No amount of good intentions can sugar-coat words like ‘mandatory,’ ‘compulsory’ or ‘required.'”
Following the furor raised by bloggers, however, the website’s wording was changed.
The word “require” was stricken from the website yesterday, replaced with the phrase “setting a goal” and now also listing tax credits toward college tuition.
The original wording is captured below:
The current website’s content now reads:
The new wording is consistent with Obama’s campaign website, which also described the college tuition tax credit and detailed “enabling” Americans to serve, rather than “requiring” them to serve.
Elsewhere on the Change.gov site, however, it still describes the plan under the heading, “Require 100 hours of service in college.” (Editor’s note: Since this article was posted, this reference on the Change.gov website was also deleted.)
J.D. Tuccille of the Civil Liberties Examiner also points out, “Most public schools depend on federal dollars. As Obama elaborated in a speech last December, ‘At the middle and high school level, we’ll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities’
“So, it won’t be the nasty federal government forcing your kids to donate their time to government-approved service, it’ll be the local schools – but that requirement will be among the strings attached to federal money,” Tuccille writes.
Obama’s selection of an advocate for mandatory civil service, Rahm Emanuel, as his chief of staff has further worried bloggers that Obama’s plans may be more “requirement” than “encouragement.”
In his book, “The Plan: Big Ideas for America,” Emanuel writes: “It’s time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, all Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service.”
Tuccille comments, “Emanuel and co-author Bruce Reed insist ‘this is not a draft,’ but go on to write of young men and women, ‘the nation will enlist them for three months of civilian service.’ They also warn, ‘Some Republicans will squeal about individual freedom,’ ruling out any likelihood that they would let people opt out of universal citizen service.”
Obama has also yet to clarify what he meant during his July “Call to Service” speech in Colorado Springs, in which he insisted the U.S. “cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set” and needs a “civilian national security force.”
A video of his comments is here:
Obama spokesmen have declined to return WND calls requesting an explanation of what this security force would be or whether this force would be “required” or “encouraged.”
Joseph Farah, founder and editor of WND, used his daily column first to raise the issue and then to elevate it with a call to all reporters to start asking questions about it.
“If we’re going to create some kind of national police force as big, powerful and well-funded as our combined U.S. military forces, isn’t this rather a big deal?” Farah wrote. “I thought Democrats generally believed the U.S. spent too much on the military. How is it possible their candidate is seeking to create some kind of massive but secret national police force that will be even bigger than the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force put together?
“Is Obama serious about creating some kind of domestic security force bigger and more expensive than that? If not, why did he say it? What did he mean?” Farah wrote.
His call generated intense Internet discussions.
The Blue Collar Muse blog commented, “The questions are legion and the implications of such an organization are staggering! What would it do? According to the title, it’s a civilian force so how would it go about discharging ‘national security’ issues? What are the Constitutional implications for such a group? How is this to be paid. … The statement was made in the context of youth service. Is this an organization for just the youth or are adults going to participate? How does one get away from the specter of other such ‘youth’ organizations from Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union when talking about it?”
Michael Kinsley also commented generally on plans for enlisting America’s youth in voluntary versus required volunteerism on Time’s website: “Problem number one with grand schemes for universal voluntary public service is that they can’t be both universal and voluntary. If everybody has to do it, then it’s not voluntary, is it? And if it’s truly up to the individual, then it won’t be universal.”