A Greater Call to Service

By Eric Goldfischer

Last week, President Brian Rosenberg endorsed the US Public Service Academy. This might not be greeted by loud trumpet fanfares, a public statement, or even a “ho-hum” from anybody. However, the President’s action is a step towards a future that has been envisioned by American leaders for decades, and most recently by Barack Obama-a nation where service isn’t something that some people do to help others, or something done for college credit, but rather a cultural calling to a more perfect American union. That is the vision and commitment of the US Public Service Academy.The idea for the USPSA was formed by two Teach for America workers in the late 1990s. They saw a need for a cultural shift towards service, and decided that the best way to accomplish this was to establish an undergraduate university devoted to public service. Out of this initial idea has come the basis for the Academy. It will be a free public university, modeled off of the military academies, with a selective congressionally based admissions committee. After graduation, students will perform five years of public service, which can be anything from teaching to working in Washington.

At Macalester, it’s easy to believe that we can change the world. We have the benefits of two dynamic cities and a campus brimming with liberal idealism and activism. Many of us will create real change during our time at college in the Twin Cities, be it through community service or political work. But looking outside of the box, student activism during college does not necessarily translate into greater public service after graduation. A master’s degree in public service, offered at many universities, is a costly option for a career without high salaries, especially when students have to pay off loans from their undergraduate college tuition. By offering the degree at an undergraduate level, the Academy removes a huge financial roadblock for would-be public servants.

We can make the world a better place, but we can’t do it alone. And that is the beauty of the US Public Service Academy: it reinforces the community aspect of public service by putting everybody through the same liberal arts education with the same overarching goals in mind. And this is where the “ripples of hope” can happen. Imagine a flood of well-educated, motivated, energetic and committed college graduates entering the working world and going not to Wall Street or the corporate world, but instead to communities and government. And these graduates are followed a year later by another group. Each individual effort towards a better world builds a foundation for the next, and each ripple of hope sent out creates others. This is, I believe, the surest way to ensure that America keeps moving towards a brighter future.

Individual and group efforts in public service are of the utmost importance. The US Public Service Academy is something bigger. It is something that we perhaps cannot yet see, but we can imagine its enormous positive impact. The concept is the fusion of the concrete and proven necessity of public service with the idealistic goal of an America that places real value on improving the lives of its citizens. We need the US Public Service Academy, just as we need health care reform and a switch to sustainable energy policy. And by establishing it, we will take one giant step as a nation towards a more caring and progressive future.

Eric Goldfischer ’13 can be reached at [email protected]