Volunteer service was the key to building America. Therefore, I was delighted to see The Times Argus put its support for the effort to create a public service mandate for all young people in the country. It's time for us to remember that such work is the cornerstone of a free society. When young people volunteer to be part of the hard challenges of keeping our systems of public works and safety, they gain a deep appreciation of the complex nature of our version of self government.

When I was young, there was the draft, and I had to work really hard to be allowed to provide public service rather than military service, to count as my tour of duty. Luckily, I did so, and thereby, had first-hand experience of the needs of the poor and underserved in our society in a way that would not have been possible without getting my hands dirty in the process.

Once America's great institutions, churches and public works were provided through volunteer efforts. We have lost that history and that social impact. For our young citizens, now looking for direction and leadership, a year of providing direct service to people and to the functioning of our system of public good would be an education in our actual role and purpose in a democracy. Participation in the great efforts of the society is what defines a free people, not just the consumer choice in voting.

Dan Jones

Montpelier

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