Contradictions in Obama’s “America Serves” plan (Update)

Many people have been pouring over the President-elect Obama transition team website, located at CHANGE.gov, and have been finding some inconsistencies in the hastily assembled programs. The first and foremost seems to be the “America Serves” plan, I’ll explain below.

Here’s the page on change.gov which describes the plan:

America Serves

“When you choose to serve — whether it’s your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood — you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans. That’s why it’s called the American dream.”

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

I commend any president calling on Americans to give time to community service. I wish President Bush had done more of that following 9/11. However, President-elect Obama seems to take it a step further. Leaders should inspire people to volunteer.

However, the first quote discusses people who “choose” to serve the nation. The paragraph which describes the plan then discusses “requirements” of serving in community service.

How does a “choice” to serve square with forcing high school students to serve? That’s not volunteerism, that’s indentured servitude when the government not simply compels, but requires you to serve.

Am I wrong here? Sound off below. Forcing people to serve is hardly inspirational.

Update

The page content has been changed to water down the original “requirement” of community service for everyone and now discusses it in the context of a $4,000 tuition credit and the desire for high school students to participate, not a requirement.

The next text reads as follows:

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

Either the page was put together sloppily, leaving out the fact that the requirement or community service was tied to the $4,000 tuition credit, or the Obama campaign began taking some questions on it and decided to change it.

I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt to say they probably screwed it up while putting together the page, though you would never have known that since the initial text simply gave a requirement of service with nothing about a $4,000 tuition credit.

Also notice the text about high school students has been changed from “required” to “setting the goal” that high school students will participate in 50 hours of community service.

Clearly they discovered that not many people take kindly to the federal government forcing people to serve based on whatever the federal government defines as serving.

In fact, I went to the cached version of the page from Google timestamped Nov 7, 2008 19:05:13 GMT, it shows the following in this screenshot:

Note that it definitively “requires” service from high school and college with nothing about any $4,000 tuition credits.

The current page has been CHANGED already.

So no, I’m not crazy, the page has been changed to get rid of the requirement. Luckily I was able to document it.