National Service

Materials  |  Audio  |  Poll  | Links to Principles of DemocracyResources

000016492579smallShould all citizens in our democracy participate in one year of mandatory national service?

Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy spoke these words in his first U.S. presidential address. More than 50 years later, democratic societies around the world still value Kennedy’s call to service.

Materials (pdf)

National Service—Lesson:








Links to Principles of Democracy

The nature of democracy changes and grows along with its citizenry, but it’s always based on principles that help citizens modify, uphold, and strengthen their democracy. Visit the DDA Democratic Principles and Activities page to learn more about the principles underlying democracy and gain access to activities that help students understand the complexity of democracy. 

We’ve identified some democratic principles addressed in this lesson “Should all citizens in our democracy participate in one year of mandatory national service?” What principles might you add to the list below?

Please here for a link the o the pdf of the fourteen principles handout on our Democratic Principles & Activities page.


Citizen Participation

Citizen Participation
citizenparticipationOne of the most basic principles of a democracy is citizen participation in government. Participation is more than just a right—it is a duty. Citizen participation may take many forms, including running for election, voting in elections, becoming informed, debating issues, attending community meetings, being members of private voluntary organizations, paying taxes, serving on a jury, and even protesting.  Citizen participation builds a better democracy.


equalityIn a democracy all individuals are valued equally, have equal opportunities, and may not be discriminated against because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Individuals and groups maintain their rights to have different cultures, personalities, languages, and beliefs. All are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination.


Selected Resources

AmeriCorps, (accessed June 6, 2011).

Associated Press, “Obama: Boost National Service Programs,” MSNBC (December 5, 2007), (accessed June 6, 2011).

“Buscan que Ley de Voluntariado ‘no sustituya a la mano de obra,’” La República (LR) 21, year 12, no. 56645 (April 27, 2011), (accessed June 06, 2011).

Corporation for National Community Service, (accessed May 27, 2011).

Dell, Kristina, “Voices of the Volunteers,” Time Magazine (August 30, 2007),,28804,1657256_1657992_1657970-1,00.html (accessed June 6, 2011).

“Fuerza armadas, género y servicio military,” Estado de la opinión pública (Lima, Peru: Instituto de Opinión Pública de la Universidad Católica del Peru, February 2010).

Global Youth Service Day, (accessed June 1, 2011).

Kinsley, Michael, “National Service? Puh-lease,” Time Magazine (August 30, 2007),,8599,1658698,00.html (accessed May 16, 2011).

La Asamblea Nacional de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ANOOC), (accessed June 6, 2011).

“Military Statistics: Conscription by Country,” Nation Master, (accessed June 6, 2011).

Novak, Candice, “The Twilight of the Civvies: Germany to Scale Back Mandatory Civilian Service,” Spiegel Online (May 21, 2010),,1518,692751,00.html (accessed May 13, 2011).

Patrick, John J., “Citizenship,” Supreme Court of the United States: A Student Companion (New York: Oxford University Press, December 1, 2001).

“Quince posibles argumentos a favor del servicio militar obligatorio,” Fundación Presencia, Cra. 15, No. 82-58, Of. 503.