BIG LITTLE IDEAS

‘UNITING AMERICANS THROUGH SERVICE: HOW CALIFORNIA IS LEADING’


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California's Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday joined James Fallows to discuss the California Volunteers' initiatives — the impact it's having in the state, and how it serves as a model nationwide at Jefferson Educational Society Global Summit event at the University of Redlands.

California’s Chief Service Officer discusses the California Volunteers’ initiatives — the impact CalVols is having in the state, and how it serves as a model nationwide at Jefferson Educational Society Global Summit event at the University of Redlands.


“Patriotism is defined as love of country. Service is how we express that love. Service is how we make this country better.”

Josh Fryday told an audience that on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in Redlands, California. Fryday was there to present “Uniting Americans through Service: How California is Leading” as part of the Jefferson Educational Society‘s annual Global Summit in partnership with Our Towns and the University of Redlands, where the event was held.

The recording of that event is now available to stream on-demand, and I have embedded the video below.

This year, for the first time, the Global Summit — an event series that I have been a part of since 2015 aimed at bringing big ideas to a smaller community — expanded beyond Erie, Pennsylvania, where the JES, a nonpartisan think tank, is based, to host programming on the West Coast.

Fittingly, of the four programs, one focused specifically on California. It featured Fryday, who serves in the cabinet-level position of Chief Service Officer for California, and leads the California Volunteers, Office of the Governor initiatives, which we have reported on often on this site.

California Volunteers features several programs, including the California Climate Action Corpsa modern-day Civilian Conservation Corps; the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps (it is spelled that way, and often accompanied by the pound symbol on social media to create a hashtag), which, similar to the GI Bill, provides a debt-free pathway to college in exchange for community service; among others.

A present presents indoors from a raised stage.
Josh Fryday, California’s Chief Service Officer, presents at the University of Redlands during the JES’s Global Summit.

There are many takeaways from Fryday’s opening remarks, and his conversation with Our Towns Co-founder James Fallows, as the two dive deeper into the impact and potential service has in strengthening democracy at the local level, and from audience questions and statements.

In the spirit of encouraging you to watch the video, I’ll forgo offering detailed analysis, but will share just a few things to listen and watch for:

1 — The quote I pulled to begin this post. At a time when division might grab more headlines than unity, service — and the opportunity to serve at the local level, or serve the country — is a welcomed balm.

2 — Fryday’s journey that’s led him to here. This includes his military service, as well as having been a mayor. It’s a compelling personal story, and also shows the intersections of military and civic service with community-level volunteerism.

3 — Environment and sustainability, and the future of education. Two often reported on topics on this site, they are two elements at the core of California Volunteers.

4 — A model for the nation. What began in California with the California Climate Action Corps is playing out in other states, like Maine and California.

5 — Some of the programs, like #CaliforniansForAll College Corps, come with a structured time commitment. But CalVolunteers also features commitment-free volunteering opportunities that might only take up an afternoon of time.

5 1/2 — Volunteering and serving a community isn’t just for the youth. One audience question asked about creating meaningful opportunities for those close to retiring, or already retired (spoiler alert: California has a Senior Corps).

Whether you were in the room as part of the in-person audience, or tuning in via live-stream, or haven’t yet watched or listened to this program – I encourage you to stream it on-demand now here:


Also while he was in Redlands, Fryday sat down with “Inside Our Towns” podcast host and producer Evan Sanford. You can read more and listen to their discussion here, or directly on Spotify here:

Subscribe to Our Towns on Spotify here.

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