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In this episode of We The States, the official podcast of the National Governors Association, host Gil Gross speaks with Joseph Heck, the Chairman of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, about the role of service in the American identity.

In 2017, the Selective Service system--what many people equate with the military draft--became part of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service. The commission explores methods of increasing volunteerism and public service, both inside and outside of the Armed Forces. A brigadier  general in the Army Reserves, a retired member of Congress, and a board-certified doctor of emergency medicine, Dr. Heck brings a uniquely informed view of what it means to serve our country as the head of the government agency charged with harnessing the power of volunteerism.

“As we traveled the country, we met with students, middle school students, high school students in many of the cities that we went to and, I don't know if we were surprised, but certainly we were pleased to hear that there is a great desire to provide service amongst that age cohort,” observed Dr. Heck.

“And interestingly, as you would expect amongst that age cohort, they'll do it. They just don't want to be told to do it.”

Dr. Heck explored the concept of service to our country beyond the constraints of military service, including changing the way our school systems are structured. He called civic education “the backbone of a functioning democracy,” bemoaning decisions to cut it from school curricula.

“Should, instead of it being K through 12, should it be K through 13 and that 13th year is a year of service in some program? Should there be a greater emphasis on trying to include experiential service learning throughout the high school curricula?” questions Dr. Heck.

“I truly believe that everybody has a service gene within them. The job of the commission is trying to figure out how do we activate that gene.”

Dr. Heck believes the military offers incredible value to enlistees for acquiring training and experience to excel in the job market. “Our vision is every American [is] inspired and eager to serve. And we believe that every American should have a clear and supported pathway to provide service to the country regardless where they come from, their socioeconomic class, race, gender, disability. And so the idea is to look at how can provide those opportunities for everyone.”

Listen to this inspirational message of the potency of public service all of our fellow citizens can, and many do, provide.  

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