Every day I get The Writer’s Almanac delivered to me online; you might hear Garrison Keillor read it aloud every day on your local National Public Radio station, or receive it via podcast. Each edition includes a poem plus several short biographies of authors who had birthdays or other significant event happen on that particular day. The Almanac also often includes some historical facts that are tied to that date.
On Nov. 15, the Writer's Almanac said this: “It was on this day in 1940 that 75,000 men were called to Armed Forces duty under the first peacetime conscription in American history.”
The piece goes on to talk about the mixed feelings regarding the military draft in our country. 1973 was the year the draft stopped.
Then the Writer’s Almanac report said: “Most Americans were happy about the end of the draft, but in 1999 the historian Stephen Ambrose wrote: ‘Today, Cajuns from the Gulf Coast have never met a black person from Chicago. Kids from the ghetto don't know a middle-class white. Mexican-Americans have no contact with Jews. Muslim Americans have few Christian acquaintances. ... But during World War II and the Cold War, American [men] from every group got together in the service, having a common goal--to defend their country ... They learned together, pledged allegiance together, sweated together, hated their drill sergeants together, got drunk together, went overseas together. What they had in common--patriotism, a language, a past they could emphasize and venerate--mattered far more than what divided them.’”
I think our country would be an even better place to live if we all did some kind of national service. One or two years immediately after high school would be a reasonable commitment. It could be in the military or any number of programs that benefit our citizens.
What Ambrose points out is we have to discover what we have in common and not focus on the differences. Being put in a situation where that happens changes everyone’s lives for the better and makes our country stronger.