In his May 7, 2020, opinion column for The New York Times, the visionary David Brooks states that all young adults should have the chance to serve those around them — especially now during the coronavirus pandemic. He describes those just graduating from high school or college, or taking a break from college: "This is a passionate, idealistic generation that sees the emergency, wants to serve those around them and groans to live up to this moment."
There are many opportunities to serve during the pandemic: contact tracing, sanitizing public places, bringing food to the hungry, assisting the elderly, taking temperatures at public gathering spots, supporting local governmental agencies, and tutoring elementary students. Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has stated that the United States will need as many as 300,000 contact tracers alone.
Brooks outlines a co-operative bipartisan bill which would create 250,000 "service year fellowships." This article lifts our spirits with its emphasis on "social solidarity" — a term coined by sociologist Eric Klinenberg. It calls upon youth to put their energy and idealism into action which benefits infirm, vulnerable, isolated, homeless, and lonely people.
Since the 1960s, young people have joined the Peace Corps to serve people in developing countries and AmeriCorps programs in the United States. They have used their skills, education, and especially their enthusiasm for the common good. We agree with Brooks: "There's no reason this shouldn't happen. . . . Has any nation prospered that did not encourage in each new generation the habits of work, the taste for adventure, a sense of duty and a call to be of use to neighbors and the world?" During this virus crisis, an altruistic youth program is just what we need.