President Mark D. Gearan opened the third program in this fall’s President’s Forum series on Wednesday, Oct. 17 by introducing Chris Myers Asch, the proponent of a program that Time magazine has listed as one of the 10 things that will change the country.
Speaking on his vision for a Public Service Academy, Asch discussed the emerging crisis caused by a shortage of citizens working in civil service positions and then outlined his design to fill them.
Gearan began the event by regaling the audience with instances in American history where big ideas, like the Peace Corps and the New Deal, have come to fruition and had a large impact in changing the world. “We are all very fortunate, Gearan said, “to be here with the leader of an idea at a moment when we are witnessing the beginning stages of a movement.
Asch characterized his proposal as an essential effort in “making public service cool again. He walked the crowd through decades of American history in which a widespread rejection of public works has developed. “There was a day when public service was held in high esteem, Asch stated, “But now the ‘ask not’ generation of the Kennedy era has become the generation of the not asked. He went on to describe the need for a national call to service and a remedy to the ill repute of work in the public sector.
Moving on, Asch excitedly offered his solution: “What we need is a flagship institution, he said, “a foundation to help renew, rediscover, and rebuild the American ideal. What we need is a Public Service Academy.
Asch’s Academy would serve as a national civilian university, modeled on military service academies. The 5,000-student Academy would provide a rigorous undergraduate education to students who would then devote five years of civilian service as a teacher, park ranger, police officer, border agent or other critical public service job at the local, state, national or international level. The idea is to provide a focused education for people who will serve in the public sector and thereby create a new generation of civic leaders.
Drawing on both President Kennedy’s call “to ask not what your country can do for you, as well as Abraham Lincoln’s affirmation to “strive on to finish the work we are in, Asch concluded by emphasizing the importance of the Public Service Academy in reinvigorating what it means to be American.
A native of Washington, D.C., Asch graduated summa cum laude from Duke University and earned his Ph.D. in American History from the University of North Carolina. He taught elementary and middle school for three years in Sunflower, Mississippi, as part of Teach for America/AmeriCorps and one year in Taejon, South Korea, with the William J. Fulbright program. He recently became an Echoing Green Fellow.
The next President’s Forum will feature Ron Tschetter, director of the Peace Corps, speaking on “Peace Corps: How Far Will You Go?, starting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, in Albright Auditorium. He will be introduced by President Gearan, who headed the agency from 1995 to 1999.