PHYLLIS SEAGAL: Good evening, I'm Phyllis Seagal, a Board member of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation, and on behalf of my Foundation colleagues and the Library's Director, Tom Putnam, who's in the audience, it's my privilege to thank all of you hardy souls who have braved the snow and ice to be with us this evening.
I'd also like to express special thanks to the friends and institutions who make these Forums possible: Bank of America, the lead sponsor of the Kennedy Library Forum Series; Boston Capital; the Lowell Institute; Raytheon; and the Boston Foundation, along with our media sponsors, The Boston Globe, WBUR and NECN. It is my total delight to welcome you here and everybody who will be listening on WBUR, on the WGBH Forum Network, as this is streamed on the Kennedy Library's new website. The audience will just keep getting bigger and bigger.
While I always love coming to the Library and especially to these Forums, tonight is a particularly personal and compelling one for me. I was 15 years old when President Kennedy delivered his Inaugural Address in 1961. Please don't be tempted to add that up on your fingers and toes, though it's not hard. Like many who have been inspired by Jack Kennedy, I can now recite much of his words in that Inaugural Address by heart. But there was one segment that actually influenced the life choices I made then and still does. Let's pause to listen to those particular words.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: "And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
"My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
"Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience, our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth
to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."
PHYLLIS SEAGAL: I don't know about you but each time I hear those words, I feel as excited as I did the first time. I can't think of a better introduction for tonight's speaker, Alan Khazei, than President Kennedy's own voice.
Alan has dedicated his life's work to the land he loves and to calling upon all of us to do what we can for our country. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Alan and his roommate Michael Brown co-founded City Year in 1988, bringing President Kennedy's Peace Corps vision of service to the streets of Boston. I expect many of you are familiar with the red City Year jackets proudly worn by corps members throughout Boston and now far beyond. Alan's startup is now in 20 cities across America, as well as in Johannesburg and London. It has grown from 50 corps members to over 13,000 giving a year of their lives to their communities over the past two decades. And during those decades, they have served more than one million children.
But as impressive as these numbers are, they don't begin to measure the reach of Alan's work since City Year, in turn, became the model for AmeriCorps, established in 1993 by President Clinton with the help of my late husband, Eli Segal, who served as the founding CEO. This national service program, inspired by City Year, has engaged over 630,000 Americans who have contributed close to 800 million hours of service to our country.
Alan's contribution doesn't stop there either. He has been a serial social entrepreneur, named by US News & World Report a few years ago as one of America's 25 best leaders. In 2003, with Congress on the verge of cutting AmeriCorps by 80%, Alan gathered with other service leaders to organize the Save AmeriCorps Coalition and together they did just that. Inspired by the success of that campaign, Alan launched a new organization called Be The Change, which is dedicated to building national movements of citizens and leaders to push for bold solutions to some of our nation's most stubborn social problems,
from failing schools to chronic poverty. The first initiative from this platform -- from the Be The Change platform -- was ServiceNation, which played a key role in enacting the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009. Today, as we face renewed threats to slash AmeriCorps, thank goodness ServiceNation exists to lead the charge against this.
In the fall of 2009, Alan Khazei was a candidate for the Senate special election primary to fill Senator Kennedy's seat and was endorsed by the State's leading newspapers. In his Newsweek column headlined, "Khazei, Teddy's Rightful Heir," Jonathan Alter wrote that Khazei was the only candidate, and I quote, "carrying forward Senator Kennedy's reform ideas on the most important domestic issue of the 21st century." Alan also, like Ted Kennedy, has been able to cross partisan divides, working with every presidential administration since 1989 to advance citizen service. And that means President Bush, President Clinton, President Bush, and now President Obama.
Alan, who I would like to add is also a dear friend -- which you may have guessed -- recounts these experiences and sets forth his vision that pragmatic idealism can bring out the best in America in his first book, Big Citizenship. He has written an important challenge to us all, which I urge you to read. And you can tonight when you leave here if you stop at the Museum shop to buy a copy, and Alan will be there after the Forum signing those for you.
Our Forum moderator this evening is another outstanding public servant, author, service warrior and friend, David Gergen. Bringing still more presidents into this room, David served as an advisor to four – Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and, putting country before politics, Clinton. He was also advisor to the 1980 George Herbert Walker Bush campaign. In the spirit of having many encore careers, David is now a Professor of Public Service and Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and editor-in-large at US News & World Report, and well known to everyone who
watches CNN, where he is a senior political analyst. David is also the author of the bestselling book, Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton.
Between Alan and David, we are in for a fascinating and important discussion. So fasten your seatbelts, here we go. [Applause]
DAVID GERGEN: Thank you, Phyllis, thank you very, very much. And thank you for bringing the spirit of Eli Segal back to this room. Eli was, as everyone knows, a dear friend of many here and especially for Alan, a mentor for Alan. Every time we see you, we think not only what you've done but what he did and we miss him. We miss him.
I'm David Gergen, and I'm delighted to see some friends here. I'm delighted to see such a good crowd and to be joined as we are by radio listeners and others beyond this hall. Our hope tonight is to have an engaged conversation with Alan. That won't be hard. He's been well called a human hurricane. I'll talk to Alan for maybe until about 7:30ish or so, and then what we'd like to do is open this up to all of you. There are a couple of microphones here and we would love your questions, thoughts about many of the important topics that Alan would raise.
Alan, it was only a couple weeks ago that we commemorated the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, and he's very much on our minds, especially in this building, but the Kennedy family had an enormous influence on you. You were born when President Kennedy was President. There's not just John Kennedy, but Bobby and Teddy and others, Sargent Shriver. That whole family had an enormous impact on you in your life. Can you help us? What's the intertwining and the parallels and the springboard for you?
ALAN KHAZEI: Thank you, David. First, let me say thank you, Phyllis, for that extraordinary introduction. I think you should all write a book just so you can get Phyllis Segal to introduce you. [Laughter]
DAVID GERGEN: Exactly.
ALAN KHAZEI: If my parents were here, my father would have appreciated everything you said. My mother would have actually believed it all. [Laughter] But you're such a …
DAVID GERGEN: She's the only one.
ALAN KHAZEI: Yeah. You're such a blessing in my life. And Eli's a big part of this book, as you know, and you're both extraordinary Big Citizens and role models for me. And to be here at the Kennedy Library with David Gergen, who's been a wonderful mentor and friend and guide, is also a treat.
And to be here, to answer your question, David, has an extraordinary impact on me. My father's an immigrant from Iran. He came here inspired by the ideals of this country, and he loved the Kennedys. He came here in the late 1950s, so President Kennedy was really sort of his first president. He had to earn the right to vote. He's a Big Citizen; he had to earn it. So I grew up in a family that adored the Kennedys.
I grew up not too far from here, mostly in New Hampshire. I sort of grew up in the shadow of the Kennedys because I was born in 1961. You all can do the math. But living in the '60s; sort of coming of age; hearing those words "ask not;" the movements; Martin Luther King; Bobby Kennedy -- what he stood for, championing the poor and the dispossessed. Then really the extraordinary opportunity to work with Senator Kennedy for more than 20 years, who was our lead champion in pushing the service movement from nothing to what it is today, was just incredible. And Sargent Shriver I had the privilege of being at his funeral just about 10, 12 days ago, and what he stood for in terms of the war on poverty and fighting. I mean, that whole family is, I think, unparalleled in terms of their commitment to public service.
In fact, when we were starting City Year, Michael and I -- who I started it with -- we moved to Harbor Point when it was redeveloped. It was sort of like City Year for housing, because they took it and made it into a mixed income housing. The administration of City Year is very diverse and we bring together people from all different backgrounds. We said, “Well, we want to be part of that because it fits our values, and we get to be right next to the Kennedy Library.” We used to come here literally every week, just to get inspiration and see the films and see the exhibits and look at the documents. I think that that family stands for what's the best about America – service, idealism, asking not, championing the dispossessed, always pushing towards that more perfect union. I feel blessed that I had a chance to work so closely with Senator Kennedy and other members of the Kennedy family, and also to grow up with those role models.
When we first started City Year, we described it as an urban Peace Corps. That's how we got people to understand what we were trying to do. And when we said that, people got it right away. It's interesting, we did just celebrate the 50th anniversary. I never tire of hearing that Inaugural Address, and it still resonates. I mean, it's amazing. You think 50 years later that's still a powerful clarion call because I think that President Kennedy tapped a chord that is a uniquely American chord throughout our history. That's what I tried to write about in the book, that sense of Big Citizenship, that we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to get involved in the life of our community and our country. So huge impact on me.
DAVID GERGEN: Young people getting involved in their lives, in their country -- before we come back to America -- I know you're passionate about this, but your father coming from Iran, watching what's going on now in Tunisia and today in Egypt must be very moving for you.
ALAN KHAZEI: It is. It's thrilling. I have a chapter in the book. I'm married to an extraordinary woman, Vanessa Kirsch, who's also a serial social entrepreneur in her own right. We fell in love, and Vanessa's folks are here, Tina and Jay, which I appreciate you being here. We decided to spend a year traveling around the world. I have a whole chapter in the book. This was in 1995/'96. We had a mission. We got engaged and said we're going to travel the world, and we want to find social entrepreneurs globally, where change is coming from. Because from the time when I started City Year with Michael in 1987/'88 to '95, the whole world changed. Mandela went from prison to president; the Berlin Wall came down; the Internet was invented; democracy started to sweep the world. And we're change agents, so we wanted to travel the world.
We went all over the world for almost a year. We went to Egypt. We traveled all through the Middle East, through Asia, South Africa, et cetera. And when I was there 15 years ago, I thought to myself this could become another Iran. You could feel then there was dissatisfaction, the gap between the rich and the poor, the disempowerment, the sense of frustration, especially among young people, that they can't control their own destiny. I'm frankly surprised it's taken this long. I wrote some memos and emails to friends saying all the conditions are here that helped to bring about the revolution in Iran. So I am very interested in that part of the world. I find it thrilling. I think it is an example of Big Citizenship globally, where all these people go into the streets spontaneously. I think we need to back people who are fighting for freedom, just as people backed us when we were starting our revolution here.
I also found when I traveled the world that people loved America because of our ideals and what we stand for. It's our biggest strength. It's interesting that young people are driving this, which I think is not a surprise. We're in a different age with Facebook and Twitter and how you can mobilize. I think it's a very unique, important historical turning point that we have to try to navigate correctly because there's a generation out there.
Across the Middle East, 65% of the people are under 30 so there's a whole group of
people whose hearts and minds are up for grabs. How America leads and what we stand for is going to have a huge impact there and in other parts of the world.
DAVID GERGEN: You say it could become another Iran, which is clearly not what we want. It's not in America's interest. Recognizing the enormous promise of this new generation that's coming, not only in America, but across the world, recognizing the power of the Internet for a lot of good, also being aware of the abuses that can come through the Internet, the way governments can use the Internet to repress people, knowing how badly revolutions can go, how do you think we channel, spark, steer?
America's got to be very careful. We're not in control here. But how does the world encourage this younger generation across the world to move toward the kind of citizenship you talk about, positive, constructive leadership?
ALAN KHAZEI: I should be clear. When I meant this could be another Iran, I felt like we are supporting a corrupt dictator and the people know that. I think what happened in Iran is we spent too many years … We overthrew Mossadegh, who was a democratically elected prime minister and put the Shah back in power. We spent too many years supporting the Shah while unrest grew. I think that's what's happened in this case. If you read WikiLeaks, you see behind the scenes we've been trying to put pressure on Mubarak for years, and yet never really pushed the issue because of a whole bunch of geopolitical reasons.
But I think the way to inspire young people is (a) more Americans traveling. I was amazed when Vanessa and I traveled – because we went to parts of the world that Americans don't often go. People were fascinated, and they brought us in and they put us up and they took time off to show us their organizations and their programs. I think more Americans traveling.
I think bringing more young people here in foreign exchange programs, coming here to study; it's one of our biggest assets. Service change programs. I think standing up for our
ideals because, again, when I traveled, I found our biggest strength is what this country stands for and also that we do it. People all over the world, many of them either know somebody who's gone to America -- we have people like my dad, we have people all over the world – or they know somebody who wants to go or they have family. So I think being willing to stand up for our ideals and what we stand for.
DAVID GERGEN: You've been invited as a social entrepreneur to international gatherings, such as Davos, the World Economic Forum, where you've been highly recognized. You've mixed with a lot of the young social entrepreneurs from around the world. And as you know, this is a burgeoning movement; it's not just here in the United States.
ALAN KHAZEI: Yes, not at all.
DAVID GERGEN: Brazil is teeming with people. There are actually a growing number of them in the Middle East. Is there a way one could create … You write in your book about an ecosystem and creating an ecosystem of non-profits and social entrepreneurs. Is there a way you can see doing that internationally so that young people would have shared aspirations and a shared sense of destiny that would allow this to all move in a constructive direction?
ALAN KHAZEI: Absolutely. I think Bill Drayton who founded Ashoka, is already working on that. There is a growing global movement; that's one of the things Vanessa and I discovered when we traveled, even 15 years ago. It's got much more robust now. We've got to think differently in the 21st century of how we bring these people together. Because what I found traveling was people all over the world have the same aspirations. They want a better life for their kids. They want to be able to pursue their dreams, especially the young generation who wants to be able to control their own destiny and be empowered. So forming a global association.
One of the ideas I've been pushing, without success, is President Kennedy launched the Peace Corps in 1960, '61, which was a breakthrough idea. President Clinton did AmeriCorps in 1993, with Eli's extraordinary leadership. I've been trying to convince people … It's the 21st century; we should take the lead in organizing a global service corps where it's not just Americans going to other countries, but it's us … I mean, imagine groups of young people in programs where you have people from Africa and from the Middle East and from Europe and from America, from South America, from Asia, all working together on global issues. AIDS is a global issue, climate change is a global issue, disease is a global issue, poverty is a global issue. And building those networks so that people understand, even across cultures, across differences, across ideology, we do have some things in common.
I'd love to see that happen. I think that you would get hundreds of thousands of young people who would want to be part of that. You could start with a leadership group, but then I think it could grow. What I've learned through service is people build bonds that are different when they're literally working side by side, trying to change the world.
DAVID GERGEN: You could do it. Muhammad Yunus with the Grameen Bank, that actually has been copied now all over the world. There are a lot of folks who are doing microfinancing, microlending. It's been striking to me that with Teach for America, Wendy Kopp – as you know, I'm involved with Teach for America -- and Wendy has been approached by people all over the world to come start Teach India, Teach Great Britain, Teach This, Teach That. She's got a 501(c)(3) now that is moving in that direction to work with these. So there is out there a sense of a generation growing up without borders, without a sense of boundaries, because they can connect up on the Internet. The Internet can also be used as catalyst, a connecting point. So those young people in the streets of Egypt can feel they've got a connection to not only what's going on there, but they're going to have a voice in the world itself.
ALAN KHAZEI: Absolutely. And I think it's a new time and we need some new institutions. I mean, the last great institution-building we did was after World War II when the whole architecture that we're still living under was invented by extraordinary people – the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, NATO, the Bretton Woods. We put together an architecture that won the Cold War, and yet we haven't done … We're in a wholly new age now and some of those institutions need to be reinvented, and we need to invent some new ones. I think things like the Global Service Corps … I love Wendy. It's fabulous that Teach for America is going to other countries and City Year doesn't do countries now, but we need to go to the next step and say, “Can we actually get people from different countries working together on the same team?”
DAVID GERGEN: Alan, with all the spare time you have, and you have so little to do, I assume you'll get this started by next week? [Laughter]
ALAN KHAZEI: Anybody who wants to help, we'll have a meeting after tonight.
DAVID GERGEN: All right, good. Let's talk a little bit about the ideas in your book. You said we need a new public philosophy in your book. That's a central point. And it would be a public philosophy that's really grounded in this idea of Big Citizenship, as you call it, and common purpose. The title of the book is Big Citizenship. Open this up for us. Unpackage this for the people who haven't had the pleasure yet of reading your book.
ALAN KHAZEI: Well, I'd say two things on that. The title is sort of inspired by a story I heard about President Truman, who on his last day in office, a reporter called out to him and said, "Mr. President, what are you going to do now that you're leaving the highest office in the land?" And Truman was one of the – as you know, you're a student of the Presidency – was the most modest man to ever assume that office. He didn't plan on becoming president; FDR died. And he said right away, "I'm not leaving the highest office. I'm assuming the highest office – citizen."
So part of the idea behind the title of the book and the theme of the book is how would we feel if each of us, just by the privilege of living in this extraordinary country, felt like we held an office of citizen. What would that mean in terms of how we engage in politics and our public life? What would it mean in terms of our commitment to doing service for others? What would it mean in terms of our willingness to participate and join with others in movements for change? At the micro level, I tell stories about incredible Big Citizens I've met. At that level, it's sort of a challenge and also a call that, how would our world change. But at the macro level, Big Citizenship, for me, is also an attempt to contribute to a debate. I don't believe I have all the answers, by any means. But I do think that we do need a new public philosophy. We need a new approach of how we solve these problems.
DAVID GERGEN: Spell it out a little bit. Help us understand what does it mean?
ALAN KHAZEI: Basically, for the past 75 years we've lived under two public philosophies. We had FDR who in the '30s and through World War II, said the federal government is going to be the center of action, activity. We had this plethora of all these different agencies. That became the answer, and that lasted basically until Ronald Reagan. Even under Eisenhower and Nixon, you had growth of government, et cetera.
Then Reagan came in and he totally flipped that. He said the government isn't the solution, it's the problem. I think we basically lived under Reagan until the financial meltdown in 2008. Even Bill Clinton, who I adore, said the era of big government's over. We're struggling now. The debate, still now, it's one side says we look to the government; the other side says, no, government's the problem. I think we need something different.
So spelling it out: For me, I think we need to say, well, “What's the role – for any problem, challenge or opportunity we have? First, what's the role of our citizens? How do we get people involved? How do we tap their expertise, their energy, their idealism? I'd love to see AmeriCorps get to a million people a year and have real national service as a
rite of passage. What's the role for innovators and entrepreneurs? The President was talking a lot about this at the State of the Union. It's been innovators and entrepreneurs throughout our history that have driven change on the private sector and on the public sector. People who invented the public school, invented the public libraries, the Wendy Kopps of today, the Geoffrey Canadas of Harlem Children's Zone, the social entrepreneurs who are driving education reform.
But one of the things I learned on the campaign, it's going to be the clean energy entrepreneurs that finally get us off Mideast fossil fuels. Government can support that. I think we need a different role for them. I'm not an anti-government person. It's through government that we collectively express our will. In the 21st century, I think the role of government should be more transparent, more accountable. Government should be focused on how do we more quickly scale up what works, but also be willing to shut down what doesn't. How do you use the Internet to get more people involved?
I think we need more public/private partnerships. When we built City Year, there wasn't any AmeriCorps so we got started all with the support of private sector leaders, companies, foundations, individuals. Then as AmeriCorps came in, we turned to public/private partnership, and we wouldn't have scaled without that partnership. I think that there's so much talent in all three sectors – the private sector, the public sector, the non-profit sector – that any problem we have or any opportunity, it's going to take all three sectors.
Finally, I do think we need to reclaim our sense of common purpose. We've got to reclaim that idea that Jack Kennedy and that family has stood for for so many years, that we're all in this together, that there are things that bind us together. So that's the outline.
DAVID GERGEN: You and I have talked in the past and have shared the view that there's an enormous amount of idealism in the rising generation. You've tapped into this Millennial generation, people a little older -- millennial generation generally judged to be
people born between essentially 1980 and the year 2000. That's the generation that's now at many of our colleges and universities. They came out to vote in enormous numbers in 2008. They didn't show up as much in 2010, but they're out there. You and I have shared the belief that given this idealism -- the way they sign up for City Year; the way they sign up for Citizen Schools; the way they sign up for Teach for America; AmeriCorps;, all these different things -- there's this enormous burst of enthusiasm and idealism. It could be the next Greatest Generation. You and I agree with that.
Now, I've run into skeptics recently and people have said "not so fast." Bob Putnam, who wrote Bowling Alone and looks at the data, he's a world-class guy, "not so fast." He asks the question, “Are you really talking about a small slice of the next generation that's essentially white, essentially well-to-do, upper middle class, and people who can afford to go off and do these things, but a whole a lot of other people are hurting. You shouldn't call the whole generation that, and don't fool yourself.” What's your response to that?
ALAN KHAZEI: I'm sort of more with you than Bob. I think this generation has the capacity and the potential to become the next Greatest Generation. It depends on what we do as a country, what kind of public policies we put into place, what kind of leadership.
The Greatest Generation became the Greatest Generation because they did great things. They were challenged to collectively survive the Depression and get through that and then to take on Hitler and the Nazis and win World War II. It was all hands on deck. It was victory gardens. It was rubber and tin drives. It was women going in droves into the workforce and men signing up to go off to war. It was everybody in a common enterprise sacrificing together and accomplishing an enormous thing, which was to save the world for democracy and preserve that. It's interesting. We revere the Greatest Generation – and we should – of our grandparents, great-grandparents. But that is four generations ago. I think if Jack Kennedy had lived and if Bobby had lived and Martin Luther King hadn't been killed, I think that generation, the '60s generation had the potential to become the next Greatest Generation. Kennedy spurred that, again, called them to do great things,
"ask not" and there were those movements. But I think in the disaster of the '60s, of all the assassinations and then what happened with Vietnam and all that, it got … I mean, Phyllis is working on this, the Purpose Prize. The Boomers now are reengaging and they want to give back.
So to answer your question: I think if we could get national service to scale and call this generation to really serve their country, they're ready. They're waiting for the call. I think if we could put together more of an ecosystem for social entrepreneurship and …Echoing Green, an incredible organization, here's an example. They give scholarships and fellowships to people who want to be social entrepreneurs. They get 1,000 applicants a year; they have money for 20. What are the other 900? I mean, these are for people who are willing to stop everything from scratch, work for a small stipend to go change the world. Well, what would it take to have a little policy that says, "Here's money for 1,000 fellowships." That's where the next Teach for Americas are going to come from and the next Harlem Children's Zones, the next YouthBuilds. Again, this generation, I think, has the potential. It's the most service generation we've ever had.
DAVID GERGEN: How do you measure that?
ALAN KHAZEI: There have been studies. UCLA does a survey every year of incoming college freshmen and they ask how many have done community service and it's off the charts; it's like over 80%.
DAVID GERGEN: Yeah, but Putnam would come back and say, “Look, you dig into those numbers and what you're going to find is a lot of those people are serving because their high schools says in order to graduate from high school you've got to go out and put a certain number of hours in.” That they're under some pressure.
I'm just trying to get a real sense. I would like to believe, but I'm just working at it, whether in fact what you and I see, which is so exciting, is only a small piece of reality
and we're missing some larger thing, that there are a whole lot of people out there who, "Come on, I want to go fishing, I want to go to the Super Bowl," whatever.
ALAN KHAZEI: Again, I think leadership matters, policies matter. I know, I've been working with young people for 25 years. This generation right now is the most exciting that I've ever seen, because of these movements, because of the serious social entrepreneurs, they're ready but they've got to be given the tools, they've got to be given the challenge.
I mean, voting. Barack Obama, I think, was the first candidate since Kennedy that really tried to talk to this generation and called them in. He got elected based on the 18-to-30- year-olds. He won the vote two-to-one. Every other group was within five points.
Applications to AmeriCorps. In 2008, 90,000 people applied to AmeriCorps. In 2010, 256,000 people applied. So there's been a 250% increase. I think part of that's the economy for sure, and the other part is the Obama Effect, the fact that the President and the First Lady have been starting with the Serve America Act, starting with MLK Day, that makes a difference.
You look on college campuses: the plethora of organizations that have been started, the people who are doing great work. It's there, but it doesn't happen by accident. Leadership matters. It doesn't happen by accident. This generation, how we support them, how we mentor them, do we make it possible so that those … Teach for America -- you know this, you're on their Board -- they had 46,000 applicants for 4,000 spots.
DAVID GERGEN: 46,000 applicants for 4,600 spots.
ALAN KHAZEI: Okay. So my question is where do those other 42,000 go? What are we doing for them? Now, they're not all going to go Teach for America, but if they're
willing to go teach in inner cities and low income rural areas for two years after graduating from top schools, I want to put them to work.
DAVID GERGEN: I agree with that, but let me ask you that …
ALAN KHAZEI: That's policy.
DAVID GERGEN: You and I agree on that. But now, when you go down to talk to the halls of Congress and say it would not cost much; it's only a tiny amount of money.
ALAN KHAZEI: It is.
DAVID GERGEN: A tiny amount of money and you can electrify a generation. You've got those other 42,000 in Teach for America. Thousands who've applied for City Year can't get in, all these other organizations. There are these willing, successful non-profits who've got far more people applying than they can handle. There are clearly a lot of idealistic young people who would still like to sign up. But there's no money to make this happen because we're acting like we're poor.
ALAN KHAZEI: Right.
DAVID GERGEN: And we do have serious financial problems.
ALAN KHAZEI: We do.
DAVID GERGEN: In your book you pointed out in the last 20 years there were 200,000 non-profits started up, and the number that got up to $50 million incomes of budget was 144; 144 out of 200,000 made it. I think Vanessa's got some numbers. The numbers that got to $80 million is quite small. How do we solve this problem? And who is going to come in and break this deadlock?
ALAN KHAZEI: I think the irony is that, unfortunately, Washington is dominated too much by special interests. When it comes to national service which, by its definition, is in the common good, there isn't a particular … The irony is we need it more than anything to get out of this sense of, "It's all about special interests, what's in it for me?" Yet, there isn't an interest that's pushing for this. So I'm very frustrated by it. For example, we got huge support for the Kennedy Serve America Act – 79 votes, United States Senate. This was about 18 months ago; it seems like ancient history, 79 votes. But now they don't want to fund it, and it's not that much money. In a $4 trillion budget, it's a couple billion of dollars if it was going to be fully funded. The demand's there, the need's there, the idealism's there …
DAVID GERGEN: Is the Obama Administration there?
ALAN KHAZEI: … and it's an investment that pays off.
DAVID GERGEN: Is the Obama Administration going to budget?
ALAN KHAZEI: I think the Obama Administration should push harder, I do. The President's been good on this, and there are a lot of priorities. He has asked for more funding. The First Lady's been fabulous. But I also think it's up to us, every citizen, to say we believe in this. Yes, we have serious fiscal realities and we're going to have to make some hard decisions, but I think we have to have a mentality of reform, cut and invest. We need to have reform and make things work better. There are places we're going to have to cut. But there are also places where we're going to have to invest and investing in this generation to serve. By the way, there have been studies done that for every dollar invested in AmeriCorps, it returns three or four dollars in benefits in terms of kids tutored and educated, playgrounds built, houses built.
DAVID GERGEN: Same argument about Head Start. You put in one dollar, you save six or seven on the other end, for every dollar you invest.
ALAN KHAZEI: Yeah. But there isn't a particular interest that is behind that.
DAVID GERGEN: How strong are the interests actually opposing it? Teach for America, coming here to Boston, as you know, there was a lot of resistance by the Teachers Union.
ALAN KHAZEI: Yes. For Teach for America, I think that is a particular case where there has been resistance. They've done a great job of showing the value and overcoming that. There has been some resistance. Some of it, I think, is philosophical, where people say, "We just don't want the government involved in this at all." Others, I think, haven't taken the time to really study … I mean, the encouraging thing to me is when you get people to actually engage … Rick Santorum is, I think, the greatest example of this. He ran against Harris Wofford, who was a service champion, who took over for Eli after he lost, and he made an issue of Harris's leadership on national service, "It's just a bunch of young people singing Kumbaya, doing nothing." Then we engaged him, got him to visit City Year in Philadelphia, took the time, and through a lot of work and getting some of his supporters who were supporters of ours, he sat down and he said, "I can support this, this is great. These are young people from diverse backgrounds. They're wearing uniforms. They've got a sense of purpose. They're making a tangible difference in the schools in Philadelphia, in the neighborhoods."
When AmeriCorps was attacked, as you remember, David, he was one of our biggest supporters because he'd been a convert. But how do we get them to take the time to do that? Unfortunately, it's not seen as a first-tier issue, whereas I'm convinced that if we actually could invest in it, you would. National service is a way to make every generation a Greatest Generation, because it will challenge … If we had it at scale, each generation
would have been challenged to do great things together. That's how you get the Greatest Generation.
The other thing that it does is it's now driving – it's not an accident that the service movement and social entrepreneurship movement have emerged at the same time because people do national service, they get turned on, and then they become social entrepreneurs. Eric Schwartz is a great example of this, who was one of the first people I recruited to come to City Year to help me and Michael get City Year started. He got so turned on by the work we were doing with kids in afterschool he said, "I'm going to go start my own organization, Citizen Schools." Then he turned it around and applied to AmeriCorps to get support to get it, so it's a virtuous cycle.
DAVID GERGEN: Michelle Rhee did the same thing.
ALAN KHAZEI: Absolutely, from Teach for America. And Darell Hammond, who started KaBoom, the first playground he built was with City Year. There's a virtuous cycle here, but it does need support.
DAVID GERGEN: I don't want to spend too long on the funding question, but it is such a tough nut to crack. You can get a really good startup going and then getting the scale up is really hard work. And people who find answers have such a hard time with funding.
I was with an international group. I was at Davos this last week and there were some folks there who were in the social entrepreneurship community and they've come a long way toward developing a private stock market -- a stock market for non-profits, essentially where you invest and you can buy an interest in. There's a lot of transparency, a lot of accountability. The non-profits have to show their books, they have to show that they're getting results. But then you as an investor have a sense of getting a social return, not a monetary return. It's a very interesting idea, and they're a long way down the track on it. You have to get some startup money. You get some foundations or some other
angels to come in and be your startup money, but once you get going, then others can come in and invest. They think that there may be a way to solve some of this financial problem. And you've been looking at that. How do you create a capital market in …
ALAN KHAZEI: I think that's a thrilling idea. We need that kind of inventive thinking now. One of the things that Vanessa and I realized when we traveled the world was that we dominate the global economy because we have built the most robust system for entrepreneurial capitalism and taking great innovations to scale. And there are certain elements of that system, and we need to develop a similar ecosystem in the non-profit world, in the social sector. One of the key elements is a robust capital market. Some of the stuff Vanessa's doing with New Profit is addressing this. There are others, like the Acumen Fund and Ashoka and Echoing Green, as I mentioned, Edna McConnell Clark now, the new Social Innovation Fund. How do we have a capital market so that if you're starting a non-profit you get certain funding? If you're trying to grow it, you get other funding. And how do you finally take it public or take it to scale?
In the private sector, we have different funders at different stages at different … How do we train people? Again, we've built this whole system of business schools. So if you start a company and you need trained people, they're getting the best education. We have to have the equivalent of a non-profit MBA. You've been leading on this at the Kennedy School. We need a culture that celebrates social entrepreneurship. We have a business section in the paper; why don't we have a section of the paper that covers the social sector? How do we celebrate the Wendy Kopps and the Geoff Canadas and the Dorothy Tillmans the way we do the Bill Gateses and the Jeff Bezoses and the Google guys? How do we build a system where the government– and again, two of the most successful things – the President talked about this – of the whole Obama Administration is Race to the Top and the Invest in Innovation Fund at the Department of Education. Not a lot of money, but massive return.
DAVID GERGEN: You use leverage.
ALAN KHAZEI: Use leverage. I think we should have similar kinds of funds in every department. We should be providing public dollars to match private philanthropy to scale these things up more quickly. So there are things we could do. The exciting thing is that the landscape is there, that if we took some effort to build this ecosystem, the resulting change that you would get would be astronomical.
DAVID GERGEN: Let me ask a related question. It may seem unrelated, but it's not. Opening the Harvard Crimson today, I was disturbed to read this article about ROTC, the delays in bringing ROTC to Harvard because there had been a sense that if the military got rid of "Don't ask, Don't tell," Harvard wanted to bring back ROTC. Drew Faust has been out in front on that. Now there are all sorts of obstacles. One of the obstacles that was described in the Crimson was that there are a lot of undergraduates who do not believe that joining up in the military, serving in the military, is a form of public service. I've been struck by the degree to which you think just the opposite and that these are some of your natural allies. You're working it out in the trenches here and domestically, but these veterans who are coming back are actually allies.
ALAN KHAZEI: Absolutely. We did this summit around ServiceNation. We wanted to have President Obama and Senator McCain there, and we also got the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to come. I see military service and civilian service as two sides of the same coin.
It's interesting. When we were first starting City Year, there were two groups of people who got what we wanted to do right away and got behind us: Peace Corps alumni, VISTA alumni and service veterans. When we walked in and made our pitch, if they had done Peace Corps, VISTA or served in the military, it was, "I get it. How do I help you?"
We're at war now. I still am appalled that basically we've been at war now for more than ten years. There are about 150-200,000 families in this country that are completely
bearing the burden of that war. I have a lot of friends in the military, as you know, who've done multiple tours. And when a soldier goes to war, the whole family goes to war. That means children don't have a mother or father, a spouse doesn't have their spouse. They're always worried what's going to happen. People come back wounded; some people make the ultimate sacrifice.
Yet, we don't have any skin in the game at all. Our taxes were cut as opposed to raised -- first time in our history that we actually cut taxes and went to war. There's such a disconnect between military and civilian life that too few of us know people in the military. I hope Harvard brings … One of the things I was excited about at the ServiceNation summit, both candidates pledged to help bring ROTC back to campuses. They both supported that. Again, I think people should choose. I don't want to force anybody, but if you want to serve in the military I say I honor you. We should honor them. But it's a larger statement, if this is true about students, about a gap we have to close. I think part of the reason we stay at war so long is that too much of our civilian leadership and our civilian population is disconnected from the people that are doing the fighting.
DAVID GERGEN: Right, that's the way they feel, a lot of the military people. "We have a war and we're the only people showing up."
ALAN KHAZEI: Yeah, and I think that we have to honor people in the military. I think we have to value their commitment and sacrifice, and I think we need to do much more. One of the things I'm most proud of that came out of ServiceNation is we have this initiative now, MissionServe, where we are literally building partnerships between civilian service groups and military groups, a lot of veterans groups. There are a lot of veterans who are coming back from the war who are wounded, who want to keep doing service. One of the things we did with the Serve America Act was to put in a Veterans Corps that actually supports people. There's a great organization called The Mission Continues by an extraordinary …
DAVID GERGEN: You know him?
ALAN KHAZEI: Eric Greitens, who's unbelievable. A Navy SEAL, served in Iraq, and he started an organization called The Mission Continues, because he realized the best way to support veterans coming back who had been wounded was to get them back into civilian community service.
DAVID GERGEN: Serving their country again.
ALAN KHAZEI: Serving their country, because they really want to serve. I mean, the good news to me, David, is that at the ServiceNation summit, we had the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; we had young veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan; we had about 60 senior military retired officers and the exciting thing to me was the service world actually really embraced them. In the service world, there wasn't any sense of, "Well, wait, you're not part of us, what are you doing here?" There was, "Thank you for your service, thank you for being here."
DAVID GERGEN: That's interesting. We should recommend this Eric Greitens, who is a fellow who runs The Mission Continues. We have to bring him here to the Kennedy Library because who better exemplifies the Kennedy spirit, a hero in war who came back charged with this idealism about service.
ALAN KHAZEI: Absolutely.
DAVID GERGEN: Alan, I want to turn to the floor here in just a minute, but it's interesting to me that we sit here talking. This is not just theoretical. Boston is really one of the major national laboratories for service and for creating an ecosystem. Tell us about that.
ALAN KHAZEI: Well, I think it's a good example, David. We're fortunate. I think it's because we do have so many great universities here. We've had a private sector and a philanthropic community that's gotten behind entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurs. So here we have not just City Year, but Citizens School, YouthBuild, Jumpstart, BELL, so many great organizations, Health First, et cetera. And it's building a community. New Profit, my wife's organization, that's supporting a lot of them. It is, I think, building an ecosystem, and we're seeing slowly the potential -- Teach for America is now here -- that it can be transformative in a community. We're all helping each other out, and people are learning from each other.
DAVID GERGEN: You're all networking.
ALAN KHAZEI: Yeah, and learning from each other and working together. Staff even move around. Sometimes people start working at City Year and then they'll go work at Citizen Schools. Peace First is another one. It is exciting to see, once you get to critical mass, how you can build a community that can collectively help to drive positive change.
DAVID GERGEN: Terrific. If you were to name the top four or five communities in the country where this social change is going on, I assume Boston would probably be in that group.
ALAN KHAZEI: Boston is definitely … DAVID GERGEN: What would that group be? ALAN KHAZEI: The other four or five?
DAVID GERGEN: Yeah.
ALAN KHAZEI: There's a lot in New York. New York is big, but there's a lot going on in New York. There's growing stuff in Washington, DC.
DAVID GERGEN: They've got a big charter school.
ALAN KHAZEI: Yep, absolutely. And again, it's the nation's capital, so even if organizations don't start there, they get there. There's been some stuff in San Francisco, I think because of the Silicon Valley impact. There's some stuff happening in LA. But Boston is definitely very much the center of it.
DAVID GERGEN: Chicago?
ALAN KHAZEI: And Chicago increasingly is developing.
DAVID GERGEN: And Vanessa, your wife, is really trying to get things going in some other communities.
ALAN KHAZEI: Oh, yeah, all over the country. They've built a real community of social entrepreneurs. The exciting thing about the leadership that New Profit's provided is they are trying to build this community of people. In fact, they do annual gatherings every year that you've been great to come to. It's happening next week. We bring all the social entrepreneurs together and say how do we support each other? How do we help each other? How do we build this into a larger movement? Which is very important, because generally entrepreneurs flock alone, but what we found is that people want to learn from each other and support each other.
DAVID GERGEN: One of the elephants in the room, of course, is what's Alan Khazei's future. But maybe we can draw that out as we turn to the floor. The microphones are open. I can continue this conversation for hours, but please come forward. And you have the first question. Please identify yourself. We're going to use Kennedy School rules.
Please identify yourself, one question and maybe a follow-up per customer, but please remember that all questions end in a question mark. [Laughter]
CHRISTINE HERBES-SOMMERS: This is very brief. I'm Christine Herbes- Sommers. I'm a principal in a production company called Vital Pictures. We do a lot of PBS documentaries. My question to you is the idealists of the '60s are now the Greedy Geezers.
DAVID GERGEN: Come a little closer, Christine, to that microphone.
CHRISTINE HERBES-SOMMERS: Sorry about that. The idealists of the '60s are now being called the Greedy Geezers.
DAVID GERGEN: The Greedy Geezers.
CHRISTINE HERBES-SOMMERS: The Greedy Geezers.
DAVID GERGEN: Speak for yourself! [Laughter]
CHRISTINE HERBES-SOMMERS: Don't worry about that. Is there a way to harness those Baby Boomers, many of whom are in this room, as they approach 20 years of healthy retirement in the kinds of work that you're talking about? In other words, make it a transgenerational as opposed to our idealist Millennials.
ALAN KHAZEI: Absolutely, Christine. Again, I think leadership and policies and organizations and institutions make a big difference here. I'm looking at my dear friend, Phyllis. She works at an organization, Civic Ventures, which has established this extraordinary thing called the Purpose Prize. It's sort of like the Nobel Prize for that generation, the '60s generation, the Boomers who are being social entrepreneurs in that
age group. A dear friend of ours just got it, Hubie Jones, who's an unbelievable leader here in Boston. I think things like that.
One of the things that we pushed in the Serve America Act, there's now a thing called an Encore Fellowship Program. I mean, the great thing about AmeriCorps, even though it gets branded by young people, it's actually open to people of all ages. One of the things that we pushed to add now is an Encore Fellowship Program so that we can attract Baby Boomers.
Again, I'm hearing more and more, there is that latent idealism of the Baby Boomer generation. I can't tell you the number of people who've come up to me who are Baby Boomers and said, "Where's the City Year for me? How do I do City Year?" And we need to invent those. There's Experience Corps, which is another great one. So they're out there.
But, again, I think that that generation needs to be called again. Because the thing about the Baby Boomers … Young people are extraordinary because they have energy and idealism, and they can work all day and they will never give up, and they can connect, especially with younger kids because they're close in age. But Boomers have unbelievable skills. They've done things, and we need to tap those. Our country's hurting. There are so many people who are struggling now. The recession, the number of people in poverty. We have the highest poverty rate we've had in a generation. It was a one-page story on the front page The New York Times. We just had a whole election and it was never discussed.
There are a lot of people who have talents and skills that we need. The non-profit sector is the fastest-growing sector in our society and we need more help. So I think there's a huge opportunity there. I also know that …I don't think it's Greedy Geezers. I think it's people who if, again, they're called, they're given the opportunity, the organizations are invented or grown or scaled, we need a whole …I'd love to see 100,000 Boomers in
AmeriCorps, just that group, and then grow from there. But, again, it's unbelievable talent that's waiting to be tapped.
DAVID GERGEN: Let me add something a little self-serving. It's interesting to me to be part of this. As you know, universities, when they were originally organized, were essentially to help people at the beginning of their careers. In the 20th century, the universities began working with people in mid-career, a lot of these executive education programs. At Harvard, we have recently launched a pioneering effort to try to work with people at the end of their first careers in something called Advance Leadership Initiative. The heavy lifting on this is really being done by Rosabeth Moss Kanter at the Business School. Nitin Nohria, who's the Dean of the Business School, has been very heavily involved. I'm one of the faculty representatives from the Kennedy School.
We have seven or eight different schools now represented, and we've got our third class just now arrived. People come in for a semester, on residence, and then they come back for a variety of things in the second semester. Most of them are going from private sector careers to working in the non-profit sector, and they want to come in and learn about best practices. They want a bit of a sabbatical. But they mostly want to get their heads around what can I do, how can I make a difference.
We've got a conference a few weeks away that one of these people has done on technology in education. And in effect, it's the Encore program from Civic Ventures. It's the same idea. What's the encore for these 20 years? While this is expensive and small at this point, I think it has enormous potential in a lot of different schools, universities if you can get the cost down. And what's been striking to me is how much the faculty want to be involved with it. There's been more cross-campus conversation and engagement by people from the Law School, the Kennedy School, the Business School, the Divinity School, Public Health, Law, everything. They really like working with that generation.
They enjoy it. And people I thought would never give up an hour of time give hours and hours and hours because they care about it.
It's very encouraging. I think there is something, I think Alan's right, there's something to be tapped out there. And to go to his fundamental point, it's about calling people. You've really got to sort of say "come do this, try it out." And it makes a difference. But thanks for the question. Did you have a follow-up?
CHRISTINE HERBES-SOMMERS: No, just an interesting comment. I don't know whether it's an interesting comment, but Civic Ventures, when we asked the question, “Oh, is this just for rich people who have made all of their money and then can do this not-for-profit stuff after they retire.” That's not the case. Civic Ventures is attracting people across SES. It's pretty amazing.
ALAN KHAZEI: It's true in volunteerism in general, actually. There's an inverse proportion. The lower income people actually volunteer more of their time at the local level; they understand the needs.
DAVID GERGEN: We'll look for Christine Herbes-Sommers's program on television. Yes, sir?
SHAW McDERMOTT: Yes, good evening, David and Alan.
ALAN KHAZEI: Hi, Shaw.
SHAW McDERMOTT: How are you? Thank you very much. It's a great program. My name is Shaw McDermott. I picked up a book by a high school contemporary of mine, Thurston Clarke, on President Kennedy's speech, entitled, as you know, Ask Not. And I haven't gotten more than two pages into it, so I can't comment on the book, but I was wondering why it was that President Kennedy, his brother Senator Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, and Cesar Chavez were such great heroes of mine growing up. I was thinking about the speech, and of course the great line that everybody knows is often
recited, but I think the most important line in the speech actually is the peroration right at the end, where President Kennedy says -- and I don't think it's just a throwaway line -- "For here on earth God's work is truly our own."
I think he deeply felt that – as with the others that I just indicated – an animating spirit in what they did was fundamentally religious in origin. I think the question I have for you derives from surveys which show that while people are spiritual, they're not particularly denominationally religious these days, and in many ways don't even understand precepts of religion as it bears on the question of service. But what is it that you can learn from that past history that I think is correctly recited to try to pick out the thing that will in fact philosophically drive your quest for greater service? That's my question to you. What is it, if the animating spirit is not profoundly religious, what is it in its stead or collaboratively will be matched to it?
Finally, if I just make the comment. I'm really grateful you mentioned military service. As it happens, my son is in Army ROTC and will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in a few months if he keeps his nose to the grindstone. So thank you on that. I hope that wasn't too long a comment. There is a question there.
ALAN KHAZEI: Thank you, Shaw, for your friendship and for your son's service and your encouragement, and for asking a really simple question. [Laughter] I think there is definitely a spiritual dimension to service. I've worked with a lot of faith-based organizations and communities. And I think when people are … You can look at any faith and they talk about service in some capacity or the other. Martin Luther King is famous for saying everybody can be great because everybody can serve.
When you're in a deep service experience, especially if you're doing it full time and you're engaging and you're turning on your justice nerve because you are directly confronting injustice, there is a spiritual dimension -- whether it's religious or not -- because it taps something that is, I think, innate in human nature. I think innately we all
want to be part of something larger than ourselves. We all want to feel like we're participating, contributing in some way, beyond just our own self-interests. I think that's why you've seen this. I saw it all over the world when I traveled with Vanessa. I think it's why, even without tremendous political support initially, this service movement keeps bubbling up. I think it's why there are so many people that participate. I think it is the right instinct and we have to figure out, well, how do we tap that?
The other thing that's interesting is, once people do it … I mean the thing that I'm excited about, we've done studies of our City Year alumni and after they spend a year in City Year, they continue to volunteer at much higher rates than their peers. They vote at much higher rates than their peers. They lead others into service at much higher rates. They maintain and develop friendships of people who are fundamentally different at much higher rates than their peers. But I think it's a deep question you asked. I'm not sure exactly what's the right answer, except the instinct is absolutely on target, and we do have to figure out how do we feed that instinct and how do we tap it.
DAVID GERGEN: Is there a fairly high proportion of volunteerism in the country with
– certainly a significant proportion of charitable giving in the country is to religious organizations, churches, synagogues and so forth -- Is a fairly high proportion of volunteering within that context as well?
ALAN KHAZEI: Yes, absolutely. There are numerous faith-based groups, churches, synagogues, mosques, et cetera, that organize people doing service. And that is an instinct that helps drive people. Not everybody.
DAVID GERGEN: It's part of the social justice mission of many faiths.
ALAN KHAZEI: Absolutely. Every faith has a social justice mission. So it's a resource that can be tapped.
DAVID GERGEN: Thank you. Please.
JEREMY MURPHY: Hello, there. My name is Jeremy Murphy and it's great to be here. A big fan of Mr. Gergen …
DAVID GERGEN: Thank you.
JEREMY MURPHY: … and of you, Mr. Khazei.
ALAN KHAZEI: Thank you.
JEREMY MURPHY: On the matter of public service, I think I speak for many when I say that I hope we've not seen the last of you in public service in terms of running for office. And I was just wondering if there's any chance at all that we'll see you run for Senate again, or perhaps Governor in a few years. I hope you do. [Applause]
ALAN KHAZEI: Are there any reporters here? Thank you. Thank you so much for that. I had an amazing experience running for office. One of the things that motivated a run is I had a chance to work in the trenches, work with incredible leaders like Senator Kennedy and others and saw the impact that you can have from that office. But the reason I had such a great experience was that when you run for office, it's like having a passport or permission slip to talk to anyone, any time, about anything. You get an unbelievable education, and I had to learn.
I learned if I was just polite and put a smile on my face and stuck out my hand and said, "Hi, I'm Alan Khazei, I'm running for the Senate," first they'd say, "Who are you?" And then I'd say, "Well, can I ask you a question?" People will open up. And I think especially because there are so many people who are hurting right now. I got an unparalleled education as to what's going on. People share their hopes and dreams. They share their anxieties, their fears. They share their ideas. What so inspired me was, even with all the
challenges and the number of people who are hurting, I also felt an undaunted spirit. Now, the spirit that this Library represents -- about people wanting to roll up their sleeves
– I met people who lost their small businesses who were saying, "I'm going to figure out how to restart them," in their late 50s or early 60s. I met young people who had lost their college scholarships, people who had lost their homes, people who are professionals who were at risk of losing their homes. But I also felt this sense of, "We can get out of this if we work together." So it was an amazing experience for me. I learned a lot. I still have a lot to learn, but what was also encouraging to me, the number of people who were interested in getting involved.
Part of the reason I ran was I felt that we need to get more people involved. I did a grassroots campaign, even in 90 days, and was blown away by the number of people who would go door to door, talk to their friends, et cetera. So I appreciate what you said. One of the things that President Kennedy, I think, championed so well is that politics is a very high form of public service. So I'm interested. I'm not ready to make any announcements tonight, but …
DAVID GERGEN: It's in your blood.
ALAN KHAZEI: Well, I believe in democracy, and I believe in our country. I think we're at a place now where most of us have to get off of the sidelines and get into the game, whether it's running for office or – again, it's a journey for me. I'm totally committed to the idea of national service. But I've also realized it's necessary but not sufficient. It's not enough. Even if we had a million people, we do need to get more and more people engaged in politics. I think pushing candidates that you believe in, getting the big money out of the system, doing the grassroots work. I think it's through politics and through government that we make our big decisions, that we decide what do we stand for, what's important, what are we going to push, what do we believe in, what our priorities are.
DAVID GERGEN: Help us now reconcile the notion of running for office and being government with Big Citizenship.
ALAN KHAZEI: Well, I think it's totally connected. I mean, again, I think that, as I said, I'd love to think everybody would feel like you're holding an office just by being a citizen. But ultimately, I mean the decision for me was about, how do you make change and how do you have an impact. Having worked so closely in the Senate, in particular with Senator Kennedy, but others – Senator Hart, Senator Bradley, Senator Clinton, Senator Wofford, Senator Nunn, Senator Tsongas, Senator Bradley, Senator Mikulski, Senator Shaheen. I've had a chance to work with just some extraordinary leaders closely and learn from them. I saw, well, it's a very unique office, because you can help support citizen movements and give energy to that. You can also help be part of a group to craft a new agenda and support new ideas. You can reach across the aisle and, in fact, you have to.
One of the extraordinary things about Senator Kennedy, he passed like 550 pieces of legislation. On almost all of them, and all of the big ones, he always had a Republican partner, even though he was the world's standard bearer and stuck to his principles. But he knew – in that institution -- you just can’t ram things through. You've got to be more bipartisan. So it's a very unique office. For me, the decision was, how do you have an impact. I felt that is a particularly unique office that I felt my skill set aligned with. I think Big Citizenship is also running for office, because there is an element of sacrifice and your family and everything else. I admire, especially having done it now -- I always did -- but I admire anyone, whatever their party is, who puts themselves forward for any elected office, especially in today's climate because you just put yourself out there.
We have 550,000 elected positions in this country, from town meeting to school committee to mayor, governor, Congress, et cetera, 550,000. It's an extraordinarily robust democracy. Too many of those, especially at the local level, there's never any competition. I mean, I go vote and you look down, it's like, okay, there are four people
running, vote for four. So I think we've got to get more people. It's extraordinary, 550,000. So I do think it's an act of Big Citizenship if you decide to run for office, whatever the level is.
DAVID GERGEN: Terrific. Please.
MATT WILDING: Hi, gentlemen. Thanks for speaking, first of all. My name is Matt Wilding. I'm actually a City Year 2000/2001 guy.
ALAN KHAZEI: Fabulous! [Applause]
MATT WILDING: It's nice to see my first employer. I was thinking about what you guys were saying about in the Greatest Generation era you had people doing things. And then when John F. Kennedy spoke in his Inauguration he said "ask not what you can do for your country." But now you see people going off to war, but then the President and elected officials say things like go shopping. Even with the current administration, we talk about big sacrifices but we don't actually talk about what those specific sacrifices are. So what I wanted to know is what you guys thought are the specifics of how responsible the government is for telling people what we need to do and how we can do those things.
ALAN KHAZEI: Another really easy question. David, I'd love to hear what you think. I think we are in a period where we do have to renew that spirit that President Kennedy called. We are facing very serious challenges across the board. Our history has always been that when we call on our people, we always come out of these times stronger. We always do. But there is an element of sacrifice, of collective effort, of understanding we're all in this together.
Look, we're in a fiscal train wreck. Train wreck. There is going to be some painful cuts, taxes are going to have to be raised. We're going to have to make some really hard
decisions. We have to deal with the issue of climate change. We have to reform our public schools. We have to deal with the issue of poverty. There are so many things.
Part of the reason I wrote the book, I think it starts with, “Okay, folks, here's where we are, but look we've had much harder times.” Founding this country was much harder than what we have to deal with today. Taking on the greatest empire of the world with these citizen soldiers? Ending slavery, the Civil War was much harder than what we have to deal with today. We're in serious times, but the Depression was much harder. We have wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; World War II was much harder.
And if you look at each of those periods, it's when we call on the collective spirit of our people and got everybody engaged. Yes, there's going to be an element of sacrifice, but also there is a generational thing. I'm a father, I have two kids. I know, I talk to any parent or grandparent, you want to make sure that this country is at least as good or better for them. We have to tap that spirit. We're being irresponsible to leave this level of debt to our kids. Or having so many kids in low income inner city schools who aren't going to graduate; 50% high school dropout rates in some areas. I think people can respond to that, and we're going to need it. We've got to be honest with people about where we are. We just can't keep kicking the can down the road. We won't feel good when we look back and say, “What legacy did we leave?”
DAVID GERGEN: I'll just briefly respond. I'm part of this Greedy Geezers Baby Boom, people born in the 1940s and 1950s generation. And we're raising the first generation of kids who are going to be worse off than their parents. Not just materially, but educationally and just all sorts of other ways. I think that's immoral. I think it's basically irresponsible.
I was pleased to hear President Obama call for sacrifice in his State of the Union message. I didn't hear many specifics about what kind of sacrifice is involved. And my own view is that we have to have shared sacrifice. Those of us who are fortunate enough
to be more affluent have to belly up first. But it has to be done with a notion that, “Okay, I'm perfectly prepared to have taxes go up. I'm perfectly prepared to pay a lot more for a lot of things, but I don't want to see it done in a way that in fact leaves a lot of waste in government and just pays for a lot of other things that we really ought to be reconsidering, too.” I think those of us who are affluent have to bear more of the burden. We should, that's appropriate. But I also think that it's important that the whole country realize we're doing a lot of things, living well beyond our means. Our generation needs to pull in our belt if the next generation is going to have any hope at all of leading better lives.
From my point of view, the country has reached what might be called a strategic inflection point. That is, if we continue to do business as usual, we're going to go down as a country. But if we change the way we're living with each other and have more of a sense of mutual responsibility toward each other, we can renew ourselves. I think these next few years are a testing point, and we're right at the edge right now. We are right at the edge. I cannot remember a time when I felt that our problems were bigger, and yet our willingness to tackle them seriously has been smaller. I think we need to get our act together and stop crying about China. We need to solve our problems here, and China will take care of itself; we'll deal with that fine. But we need to renew ourselves here.
We've got a real issue here in the younger generation. Alan's been talking about the Millennials. If you look at kids who are under 18 in this country, 40% of them are now minorities. Most of them are Hispanic and blacks. Those are the very groups we have not served well in terms of their educational opportunities, their opportunities to make it in life. And there's sort of a common view, “Well, they can't make it, they're the kids of one- parent families and they come from poor neighborhoods; they don't have the capacity to do it.” That is a myth, that's an urban myth that really needs to be demolished. We need to get serious about the education and opportunities for people who are not white and so have a shot at life. It's what Alan's been all about. It goes all the way back through Martin Luther King and the Kennedys, back to the Declaration. [Applause]
ALAN KHAZEI: How about David Gergen running for office? [Laughter]
DAVID GERGEN: I would not inflict that on you. [Laughter]
MARSHA FINKELSTEIN: Hi, I'm Marsha Finkelstein. I live on the North Shore. Hi, Alan.
ALAN KHAZEI: Hi, Marsha.
MARSHA FINKELSTEIN: I worked on your campaign.
ALAN KHAZEI: Yes, thank you.
MARSHA FINKELSTEIN: It's just an honor to be here. I love how you're bringing the energy of social entrepreneurism to more people. I am an entrepreneur, and I consider myself a social entrepreneur. About 11 years ago, I actually applied to one of those Echoing Green social entrepreneurial grants, and it didn't work out for me. But I'm now in a place in my life where I'm trying to make decisions about where my future's going.
I recently learned about this type of social entrepreneurial corporation that is referred to as a B corporation. It's very intriguing to me. I don't know how many people in this room know what that is. I wanted you to maybe speak to that and tell people what that was about, and what you think the future of that might be. Because not everyone who's a social entrepreneur is going to be starting a City Year or a non-profit organization.
Because what I'm doing is I'm trying to impact people's lives, but I also want to make a living at it and be able to improve people's lives at the same time. And I know there's a lot of entrepreneurs that have that vision as well. So I'm curious to hear what your thoughts are on that, how we can grow social entrepreneurism in a capitalist society.
DAVID GERGEN: Good question.
ALAN KHAZEI: Yeah, thank you for the question. Thank you for your help, and thank you for your leadership. B corporation is essentially a social benefit corporation. It's like a hybrid between a for-profit and a non-profit, and it has different legal standards as a result of that. I'm thrilled about it and I think we need to push … Again, I think we need some new inventions. This is a different time and we do need to have some kind of hybrids. I think having social benefit corporations where they have a triple bottom line where, yes, they're trying to make money, but part of their bottom line is also what's the impact on the community, what's the impact on the workforce, the environment, et cetera, is fabulous. I actually think that a lot of people would gravitate towards that.
I cite some studies in my book. Cone-Roper's done these studies. Every year it's grown. If you have a choice between buying a product from a company that sort of just makes a good product or buying a product from a company that also has some sense of social responsibility and a cause orientation, 80% of the people will buy the product from the social responsible company. So, again, I think we need to have changes in our laws so that we can support B corporations. I think we need to think of new forms of organization, new hybrids, so that we can have a more robust system.
DAVID GERGEN: The issue becomes the B corporation. You're going to get a tax break versus non-B corporation, right?
ALAN KHAZEI: Yes.
DAVID GERGEN: So the person who's got a small corporation out there that just wants to make a living is going to face a disadvantage against a B corporation?
ALAN KHAZEI: Well, it depends. The B corporation is also pursuing different things so that they're competing in a different way.
DAVID GERGEN: But the people who run it still make a lot of money?
ALAN KHAZEI: No, because their profit margins are lower in a B corporation because they're trying to produce a social benefit that's part of their … So it's not just about private gain. I'm not against that. I believe in capitalism, I believe in the market. But I also think if there are people that are looking for a different kind of bottom line, it's okay to treat them differently in the tax code to promote that.
DAVID GERGEN: Okay. Please. I think you may have the last question.
ADAM HODGES-LeCLAIRE: My name is Adam Hodges-LeClaire. I am a Millennial, I guess, for better, I would hope. My only experience with service has been with the Food Project, which works in Boston and Lincoln. As a student of US history, everybody talks about the Founding Fathers in the Colonial era, and when they're not sort of waxing nostalgic on it, they're definitely being completely oblivious to certain parts of it. [Laughter] For better or worse.
DAVID GERGEN: Where are you going with this?
ADAM HODGES-LeCLAIRE: I think that the meaning of different words, like liberty or rights or responsibility or patriotism has really evolved. And with that in mind – and it's in some ways warped into a more cynical form of entitlement -- do you think public service is a way to regain our sense of civic unity and patriotism? Or is it an ends to a means of public policy? Could you give me your reflection on that?
ALAN KHAZEI: Do you go to Harvard?
ADAM HODGES-LeCLAIRE: No! [Laughter] No, I'm a senior in high school.
DAVID GERGEN: Good for you. Where are you in high school?
ALAN KHAZEI: Tell me how to pronounce your name again?
ADAM HODGES-LeCLAIRE: Adam H-L.
ALAN KHAZEI: Adam H-L. I think that's a great question. I know the Food Project. It's a great effort, so thank you for serving there. I think it's both a means and an end. Again, I think that we've talked about national service as the missing link in democracy, because it makes it real.
You talk about Big Citizenship. If you spend a year or two, in full-time service in particular, through AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, or the military, you are pursuing a greater good. You're pursuing the common interest as opposed to your own self-interest, and that does develop justice nerves. It does develop habits of the heart. There are now studies that show this. So in that sense, it is a means to make the democracy work. But depending on what the organization is, it's also an end to solve problems. If you're Teach for America or City Year, you are educating kids in public schools. If you're Habitat, you're building housing and people are getting homes. If you're one of the environmental groups, you're helping to preserve the environment. So it's both.
But I think that part of the reason I believe in it so strongly is that I think we do need that. We need something that brings us together. When we have a common experience … David has this theory that part of the reason we've gotten so partisan – you can talk about this, David – in Washington is that during the period where we had the draft, and I'm not for bringing back the draft, but at least people on both sides, especially that World War II/Korea generation, had something in common. They all had served their country.
George McGovern and Bob Dole were actually really good friends. And they did some great work around hunger together, even though you couldn't get more opposite on the political spectrum. But they both served in World War II and they respected that.
I'd love to see a day when the majority of the people in Congress had served in AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps or the military. I think you'd have a different tenor in Washington because they'd all know, “Well, at least we shared that common experience. We might have different political views, but at least we have served our country.” So in that sense, I think it's a valuable thing in terms of just reigniting that sense that we're all in this together.
DAVID GERGEN: Shared sacrifice. That's really critical, that people share sacrifice when they're young on behalf of service to others. They will come back to it again and again and again throughout their lives. Please. Actually, Alan, he does have the last question.
MATTHEW GIFFORD: Hi, I'm Matthew Gifford, a 16-year-old junior at Brookline High School. First of all, I'd like to thank you to have this Forum, it's very enlightening to me personally, and I'm sure to everybody here.
My question really revolves the youth politics and how in the '60s and '70s the youth really stepped up in the politics base and how they really fought for their rights and the rights of people overseas. So I was wondering, how can kids in 2010 -- my age, 16, 17, 18 -- really step up to the plate and help people in politics and give input to adults and help make the nation a better place? [Applause]
ALAN KHAZEI: We need you, Matthew, thank you for coming tonight. High school students can have a huge impact. I mean, I was excited, I had high school students who volunteered on my campaign, who went door to door. If you're under 18, you can't vote, but you can do everything else. You can call people, you can go door to door. You can
distribute pamphlets, you can help write position papers. You can translate things on the Internet to different languages. You can organize your friends. You can get your parents and your parents' friends.
The fascinating thing about President Obama, there are so many political leaders who said, "I decided to support him because my kids got so inspired that I figured if he could reach my kids, there must be something special." So run for office yourself. Get involved in campaigns.
Again, I have become more excited about this from my own experience, but as I said, that generation, that 18-to-30-year-old generation elected President Obama. That group, he got 66% of the vote, McCain got 33 or 34%. They provided the margin of victory. It is a tidal wave. They didn't show up as much in 2010. I think the President and his team are trying to figure out how do we get – so it's powerful.
But I would say to you is I hope you get involved. I hope you think about running for office yourself. I hope you pick a candidate, join their campaign. If you're, as I said, if you're under 18, you can do everything but vote. And often you can actually get more votes. And then when you turn 18, you can vote and eventually run for office yourself. But thank you for being here tonight.
DAVID GERGEN: Ladies and gentlemen, that is concluding our conversation. I want to thank all of you for coming. It's been a remarkable evening mostly, Alan, because we had a chance to hear from you and to sense your passion, your idealism. And you've been at this now how many years? Since you left law school, how long ago was that?
ALAN KHAZEI: Almost 25 years.
DAVID GERGEN: Twenty-five years of service to this community, to this country, and increasingly to the world, and we're deeply in your debt. I want to remind you, again,
that we're going to be going out here. There are copies of Big Citizenship, and in the spirit of Ted Sorenson when he used to have a lot of fun, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for Alan's book sales. [Laughter] Big Citizenship.
Thank you very, very much!
ALAN KHAZEI: Thank you! Thank you, David. It's an honor to be here with you. Thank you. [Applause]