Michael Brown ’88 recently spoke about how his time at Harvard Law School inspired him and his classmate Alan Khazei ’87 to found City Year, a successful national service program that was the inspiration for the formation of AmeriCorps. Brown spoke at a luncheon event during this spring’s class reunions.
“When Alan and I came to Harvard Law School, we found a whole set of ideas that supported the concept [of national service],” said Brown during his remarks. “We realized that national service could change our politics. Not only could it get tremendous work done and meet needs, which is critical; not only could it transform the lives of those who served and the people they served; but it could actually change the way we do business in our policy by turning young people into experts for the common good.”
Roommates during their undergraduate years at Harvard College, Brown said he and Khazei were inspired by the professors and ideas they learned about while in law school. Law school gave them an opportunity to discuss and think about how national service would fit into the political spectrum, he said.
“It was really during our time here at Harvard Law School that we committed to the concept of doing everything to bring about the day when the most commonly asked question of an 18-year-old would be, ‘where will you do your service year?’” he said.
After earning his law degree, Brown turned down a clerkship with then federal Judge Stephen Breyer ’64 to start City Year with Khazei. The program took off when Bill Clinton, who was still Governor of Arkansas and a presidential candidate, visited the founding Boston location of City Year. That visit inspired Clinton to form AmeriCorps during his first year in office as a way to fund City Year and other national service programs.
Brown spoke with great idealism about the future of national service in the U.S. Advocating for a “G.I. Bill for the 21st century,” Brown said he wanted national service to stand alongside military service. He called upon members of the audience to advocate for national and international service programs, saying service has the power to unite the country and provide opportunities for the U.S. to repair international relationships.