Time magazine isn’t satisfied with reporting the news. It wants to play both journalist and lobbyist. Their website announced: "TIME is helping to lead a major push to make national service a priority in Washington. And we want you to get involved". In his "To Our Readers" article this week, Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel announced that Time has joined in a lobbying group called "Service Nation" to promote legislation for more federal government programs of volunteering. If the phrase "more federal government programs of volunteering" sounds strange, you’re not on Time’s wavelength.
Once again, Time is promoting a program led by recent Time cover-story honorees. The magazine will help host a September summit starring one-time Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shared a cover last June. (Ironically, that story was headlined "Who Needs Washington?" Now Time declares that Washington must lead on volunteerism.)
As Brent Bozell noticed in 2006, when Time magazine named Bill and Melinda Gates (and rock star Bono) as their Persons of the Year for 2005, deep in the story, Time admitted it was doing some back-scratching of its own donors: they admitted the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "was a major sponsor of the Time Global Health Summit, held in New York City in November."
Stengel explained how Time magazine would lead the country toward greater service:
Last September, our cover story "The Case for National Service" caused an outpouring of interest in and support for citizen service across the country. This year, in addition to publishing another issue on the idea of service, we are convening--along with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and with presenters AARP and Target--a national bipartisan summit in New York City that will bring together hundreds of leading Americans to plan and lay out a bold blueprint on citizen service. The event will start on the evening of Sept. 11--that solemn anniversary seemed an appropriate time to launch this effort--and the meeting itself will occur the next day, Sept. 12. The summit will also be the first major public event for ServiceNation, a national campaign of more than 100 organizations--ranging from AARP to the National Council of La Raza and Habitat for Humanity--that collectively represent some 100 million Americans. My co-chairs at the summit will be Alma Powell, Caroline Kennedy, Carnegie president Vartan Gregorian and AARP CEO Bill Novelli. The summit will be opened by New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, who himself is an exemplar of citizen service, and will be closed by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is the first governor to create a cabinet post to oversee service and volunteering....
All the partners are keen to make the summit a place for not only dialogue but also action. To that end, ServiceNation is working with Senators Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch on legislation designed to expand opportunities for volunteering and national service. ServiceNation will urge the next President and Congress to enact that legislation by Sept. 11, 2009. Two weeks after the summit, ServiceNation will engage tens of thousands of Americans in hundreds of events across the country in a national Day of Action to highlight the benefits and goals of citizen service.
In last year's cover story on service, Stengel lamented how most Americans are lazy people who just pay taxes and vote:
Today the two central acts of democratic citizenship are voting and paying taxes. That's basically it. The last time we demanded anything else from people was when the draft ended in 1973. And yes, there are libertarians who believe that government asks too much of us — and that the principal right in a democracy is the right to be left alone — but most everyone else bemoans the fact that only about half of us vote and don't do much more than send in our returns on April 15. The truth is, even the archetype of the model citizen is mostly a myth. Except for times of war and the colonial days, we haven't been all that energetic about keeping the Republic.
Time proposed ten different ideas for federally-supported national service, although they insisted it was not mandatory service, despite their lament about the end of the draft.
Libertarian Sheldon Richman responded in kind to Stengel.