Magazine article Newsweek

Why Service Matters: There Are Problems Governments Can't Solve, So Its Up to the Rest of Us - before It's Too Late

Magazine article Newsweek

Why Service Matters: There Are Problems Governments Can't Solve, So Its Up to the Rest of Us - before It's Too Late

Article excerpt

NOT LONG AGO, I VISITED a Boys and Girls Club in a poor area in Florida. I was talking to a group of kids sitting on the floor around me about my own childhood. My family wasn't rich; in fact, we lived in a tenement in the Bronx. But, I told the group, my parents had created an enveloping family environment that gave sustenance, structure and discipline to our lives. We were taught to believe in ourselves. As I spoke, a 9-year-old boy raised his hand. "General," he asked, "do you think if you didn't have two parents you would have made it?"

That kid cut me right to the quick. He was saying, "This isn't my world you're talking about. Can I still make it?" My answer was: "Yes, you can." That boy may not have had what I had growing up, but, I said, "there are people here who care for you, who will mentor you, who win watch over you and teach you right from wrong."

As I began traveling around the country in retirement, my own interests turned inward, from national security and cold war to what is going on here at home. I have seen social, cultural and racial divides that are deeply troubling. These are problems government can't solve, so it's up to us to get on with it. Last Friday we started: I had the unusual privilege of standing in the White House beside two of the presidents I had served--Bill Clinton and George Bush. One had defeated the other at the polls, but old rivalries are giving way to a common purpose. We were together to announce the Presidents' Summit for America's Future, which will be held in Philadelphia on April 27-29. …

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