Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg wants to dramatically increase national service opportunities to "reignite a sense of unity in America."
The South Bend, Ind. mayor on Wednesday announced what his campaign has dubbed "A New Call to Service." The initiative would build a network of one million National Service members by 2026, when America celebrates the 250th anniversary of its independence.
“National service can help us to form connections between very different kinds of Americans, as was my experience in the military,” Buttigieg said in announcing his plan.
Pointing to his tours of duty in Afghanistan, the 37-year old emphasized that "I served alongside and trusted my life to people who held totally different political views. You shouldn't have to go to war in order to have that kind of experience, which is why I am proposing a plan to create more opportunities for national service."
The proposal - which Buttigieg was scheduled to unveil later Wednesday at a Sioux City, Iowa town hall - would immediately offer national service opportunities to 250,000 positions through the existing federal and AmeriCorps grantee organizations. The program would focus on students at high schools, community colleges, vocational schools, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) as well as so-called "opportunity youth" (people between ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working).
The plan would also create competitive grant funding for communities, cities and regions. And it would create new service corps, including a Climate Corps, Community Health Corps, and an Intergenerational Corps.
Pointing to polls that indicate Americans' trust in institutions has never been lower, the Buttigieg campaign said the plan "seeks to unite a new generation of American youth by mutual service and common values."
Currently, AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps offer young people opportunities to serve in low-income areas in the U.S. and abroad.
Buttigieg first suggested a national service plan during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in April.
Two rivals for the Democratic nomination, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, have also rolled out expanded national service plans over the past couple of months.
Delaney, Moulton, and fellow Democratic White House hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand have also proposed student debt forgiveness or subsidized college for students who go into national service.