In April, Ronald Tschetter
swept into Seattle to trumpet the No. 1 ranked Huskies. At the University of Washington's Kane Hall, undergrads and college pashas cheered as Tschetter presented a plaque to Provost Phyllis Wise.
Tschetter is no health-care czar or NCAA exec. He's the director
of the Peace Corps
This year, the UW
unseated the University of Wisconsin as the top generator of Peace Corps volunteers
[108K PDF]. The University of Oregon
in Eugene placed sixth. Western Washington University
in Bellingham, Wash., landed at No. 4 for medium-sized schools.
In the small-college category, the University of Puget Sound
in Tacoma was first, with five more Northwest schools scoring in the top 20: Gonzaga University
of Spokane, Lewis and Clark College
in Portland, Willamette University
in Salem, Ore., Whitman College
in Walla Walla, Wash., and the The Evergreen State College
in Olympia, Wash.
The UW's distinction should hold indefinitely, boosted by powerhouse departments of forestry, engineering, and international studies, as well as an enterprising Peace Corps Master's International program.
Moreover, Washington state contributes the highest number of volunteers per capita to AmeriCorps
, the domestic counterpart of the Peace Corps. Mix in international philanthropies, including the world's largest foundation, and the pattern falls together like a pointillist drawing: The Northwest is a global heavyweight in public service.
Fast-forward three years
, when Congress announces the location of the new U.S. Public Service Academy
, an Annapolis for national service, somewhere in Massachusetts or New York. We'll shuffle around like self-flagellating pilgrims and mutter passive-aggressively that if life were fair, by God, the Northwest would have nabbed that sucker.
Life isn't fair, as all Nordic depressives know, especially in the Hobbesian world of American politics. That's why lawmakers need to unite and exhibit some un-Lutheran hubris. If the U.S. Public Service Academy Act has legs, then the Northwest delegation needs to lock arms and bring home the academy bacon.
We've got some work to do: S. 960
, the U.S. Public Service Academy Act, has a dozen Senate co-sponsors, including Hillary Clinton of New York and Republicans Arlen Specter of Pennsylvannia and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. As of July 26, there were exactly zero Northwest co-sponsors.
The House version of the bill, H.R. 1671
, has sixty co-sponsors including Oregon's Pete DeFazio
and Washington's Jim McDermott
Only lion-lamb canoodling, including a kumbaya alliance between Eastern Washington's conservative Rep. Doc Hastings
and Seattle's McDermott, can make this happen. But why not? Scoring a service academy will be worth the wince-inducing alliances – not to mention that service is inherently nonpartisan.
Academy creators want it in Washington, D.C., where students can grow fluent in bureaucratese and experience K Street Machiavellianism up close. A very bad idea.
Meanwhile, maybe at last
the Northwest's service ethic is getting its due. There's an effort under way called the Global State of Washington
that aims to promote regional NGOs
doing good works internationally. This group has generated some eye-watering stats, identifying more than 350 Washington nonprofits working overseas, almost 300 businesses advancing 400-plus initiatives, and 124 university centers with an international bent.
Academics can debate whether the Northwest's do-gooder-ism is a middle-aged expression of Baby Boom idealism or a mix of fine universities, or the legacy of FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps and the WPA, or hell-fearing Scandinavians, or the natural extension of Mother Joseph and the Sisters of Providence.
It probably doesn't matter. What matters is that the global citizen/volunteer culture is part of our social fabric. It should become part of the Northwest narrative as well.