A ‘fond farewell’ and a plea for a civilian ‘G.I. Bill’

This column is a “fond farewell” to those who have enjoyed my writing over the years. Writing a column is like putting a note in a bottle and tossing it into the river so it can float down and across the bay and out into the ocean. You never know whose shore it will wash up on.
But since it carries my email address (wbyron@sju.edu), it will occasionally draw a reader response and that, of course, is always appreciated.
Let me alert faithful readers that my latest book, “Parish Leadership: Principles and Perspectives,” is now available from Clear Faith Publishing and that Paulist Press will soon release, probably on their fall 2017 list, what is likely to be my final book, “Growing Old Gratefully.”
Old age is a gift. I can attest to that, so why not welcome it with gratitude? These books are important to me; I hope readers of this column will do what they can to help them make the rounds.
I also hope that faithful readers (I don’t pretend to be able to claim a fan base!) will let their internet search engines lead them to the April 3, 2017, edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, where they will find my op-ed article, “Honor next great generation with G.I. Bill for civilian service.”
In this piece, I suggest that if President Donald Trump really wants to make America great again, he should lift a page from the experience of what Tom Brokaw called our “greatest generation” (I am one of them) who, in exchange for every month of military service in World War II, received two months of free higher education after the war.
It was called the G.I. Bill of Rights and represents the greatest investment in human capital that this country has ever made.
I suggest that it would be a good idea now to attach a G.I. Bill type of educational benefit to any pre-approved program of civilian national service like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity, Jesuit Volunteer Corps or any other organization that invites young volunteers to help meet national needs like eldercare, child care, environmental protection, cleaning up the cities, repairing urban infrastructure and shoring up public elementary and secondary education.
Today’s need to address widespread purposelessness among the young is evident. Alarming reports of drug and alcohol abuse and youth suicide, as well as disengagement and drift, call for a strategic national response. Civilian national service could make a crucial difference.
And not to be overlooked is the fact that in function of their higher education gained through the G.I. Bill, Brokaw’s “greatest generation” found higher-paying jobs and thus paid more in income taxes over the years. This constituted an enormous return to the federal treasury and made it, over time, a self-financing program. A good idea; pass it around.
Thanks for your loyal readership and helpful comments over the years.
Jesuit Father William J. Byron, the former interim president of Loyola University New Orleans, is professor of business and society at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia. Email: wbyron@sju.edu.

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