November 7, 2008
Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, President-Elect Barack Obama’s choice for chief of staff in his incoming administration, is co-author of a book, The Plan: Big Ideas for America, that calls for, among other things, compulsory service for all Americans ages 18 to 25. The following excerpt is from pages 61-62 of the 2006 book:
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 eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service. …
Here’s how it would work. Young people will know that between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, the nation will enlist them for three months of civilian service. They’ll be asked to report for three months of basic civil defense training in their state or community, where they will learn what to do in the event of biochemical, nuclear or conventional attack; how to assist others in an evacuation; how to respond when a levee breaks or we’re hit by a natural disaster. These young people will be available to address their communities’ most pressing needs.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
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, "[s]ome Republicans will squeal about individual freedom," ruling out any likelihood that they would let people opt out of universal citizen service.
As chief of staff, Emanuel will not be in a position to directly introduce public policy, but his enthusiasm for compulsory service, combined with Barack Obama’s own plan to require high school students to perform 50 hours of government-approved service, suggest an unfortunate direction for the new administration.