Listening to the Volunteer Drumbeat of Today’s Leaders

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - 7:02 pm

Listening to the Volunteer Drumbeat of Today’s Leaders

Students Volunteer
Students volunteer to clean up a riverfront property in Hartford, Connecticut. (photo: Laura Ouimette/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
Service and volunteerism by young adults is at an all-time high in U.S. history, according to a story in yesterday’s Boston Globe.

The children of the baby boomer generation are not only focusing on what it means to lead a good life, but they’re reevaluating how to go about doing it:

“Where their boomer parents may have been inclined to put their idealism and energy into protest and rebellion, today’s young men and women are civic-minded, less determined to change the social order, and more inclined to make the world a better place, even if it means doing it one load of laundry at a time.”

The mindset and actions of up-and-coming generations of civic-minded people remind us that social change is happening and comes in many different flavors. But, according to John Gomperts, director of AmeriCorps, this doesn’t mean that today’s generation aren’t listening to their elders. He believes that the past four U.S. presidents have something to do with this increase in volunteerism:

“I’m not someone who believes people sit around and wait for their president to call them to service, smack themselves in the head with the heel of their hand and say, ‘Damn, this is what I meant to do.’ But I do think the constant drumbeat of presidents does lead to different expectations people have of themselves and others. It’s in the air and water now. It is what young people expect to do and want to do and what society expects of them.”


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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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