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Corporation for National and Community Service and co-chair of America's Promise: The Alliance for Youth, is a natural one for him, after decades of creating such programs. VISTA was a precursor of Americorps and America's Promise. The latter was founded in 1997 to give people the chance to serve their community. It is a bipartisan effort. Its first chairperson was General Colin Powell, and when he became Secretary of State, his wife Alma Powell agreed to co-chair with Harris Wofford. Defining its aims, Wofford said, "America's Promise is trying to show that in this complex modern world, you can achieve great goals, for children and youth, by a form of collaboration that brings all levels of government together with the corporate world, with the education community, with the religious communities, with youth-serving organizations, with nongovernmental organizations in a collaboration around specific goals in the community." The five goals of America's Promise are that "Every young person should have a caring adult in their life, a mentor or a coach. Second, everyone should have structured activities in

safe places in non-school hours. Third, every young person should have a healthy start-the mother should have prenatal care and health education and immunization and access to health care. Fourth, children should have an effective education. Extra tutoring should be provided for children who can't read independently by the end of grade three. Finally, every young person should have not only opportunities to serve and give back, but should be asked and challenged to work in the community on hard problems, and learn citizenship by doing it." Communities, schools and various organizations collaborate on these efforts, which are targeted at the poorest young people. "There are some 800 partners of America's Promise nationally, of whom about 400 are corporate partners and another 400 are nongovernmental organizations," Wofford says. Large youth orgaInteracting with children at a Kansas City Missouri school which is part of the America Promise network. Wofford is dedicated to citizens 'service by helping young peopleand young people giving back.

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nizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Girls Scouts, YMCAs, Big Brothers and Big Sisters are partners. The Red Cross and other community services organizations also participate. Besides disadvantaged youngsters, the program focuses on "the 15 million kids who are not getting after-school programs and tutoring and need a mentor in their lives. All young people need these promises," Wofford maintains. They also need to "become active duty citizens," and give back to the community. But people often see citizen service as a time-intensive endeavor requiring the dedication of a Gandhi or a King. Wofford's view is uncompromising: "We all, in different ways, should be little Gandhis and little Martin Luther Kings. Not expecting to enter the world stage, anymore than young people who discover the excitement of sports and have role models who became world stars and multimillionaires should think that ifthey pursue sports they are going to be world stars and multimillionaires. But having that as a challenge is a good thing." He adds, unsurprisingly, given his own track record, "I am on the side of very high expectations, even at the risk oftension and strain in the gap between the ideal and the reality. And American history at its best has set-for example in the Declaration of Independence-the high goal of liberty and justice for all, stating as a 'self evident truth that all men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights.' Seeing that as a selfevident truth when it was obviously then, and now, very controversial, I think was a great thing." Wofford acknowledges the danger in the gap between the goal and its accomplishment, "But T favor living dangerously. I guess the much greater frustration for me is not that we have too high expectations and we don't live up to them, but there is too great a sense that there is nothing you can do about it, and you can't control anything. So I would like people ~ to be educated to believe that they can ~ change things. And if they become heav~ ily strained in trying to do it and being ~ disappointed, it's better than the value~ lessness that comes in saying, well, we ~ can't do anything about that." D

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Profile for SPAN magazine

SPAN: July/August 2003  

An American Gharana?; Digital Railroad to Fly; Think Tanks & U.S. Foreign Policy; Can Economic Diplomacy in South Asia Work?; Muscle & Magic...

SPAN: July/August 2003  

An American Gharana?; Digital Railroad to Fly; Think Tanks & U.S. Foreign Policy; Can Economic Diplomacy in South Asia Work?; Muscle & Magic...

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