Big Ideas for a New America

article | January 04, 2014

What if, upon graduating from high school, every young person was given an opportunity to complete a service year with other young people? Stan McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, believes that if we create Service Year Cities—cities who set an initial goal of having at least 25% of their graduating students from high schools stay in their communities to serve for a year—we can change America for the better by fostering neighborhood and community citizenship.

McChrystal is now the chairman of the leadership council of the Franklin Project on national service at the Aspen Institute, which promotes a vision of national service that is “voluntary but socially expected.” In a recent article on, McChrystal presents the Franklin Project’s goal to have 1 million young Americans complete a year of civilian service in their communities by 2023. McChrystal calls for cities to lead the way, pointing to early templates for success in cities like New York City and Flint, as well as on college campuses like Tulane and Tufts. By making themselves Service Year Cities, he argues, communities will “have the power to transform our culture of service and ultimately create a country in which all young Americans have the opportunity to serve.”

McChrystal’s article is the first in a series on, “Big Ideas for a New America,” in which New America will spotlight solutions to the nation’s greatest challenges offered by experts in various areas of policy, thought, and innovation.


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