Dear Prince Harry, I doubt you'll ever read this, but just in case, I wanted to let you know that on the off chance that Prince George and Princess Charlotte don't take after their Uncle and aren't that keen on jumping in a ditch and living in the rain, you might like to think again about National Service. There are already plenty of other options out there for them to serve their country - voluntarily - and they have nothing do with running around with a rifle.
Once you're back from Africa I'd be happy to introduce you to a few of the thousands of young people who are already taking part. I think you'd like them. Like you, they've got some stories to tell of the lessons they've learnt, the friends they've made and the challenges they've overcome. Perhaps not in Afghanistan, or in a helicopter, but a bit closer to home. The ones I know serve in our biggest cities, where they've signed up to give a year as role models, mentors and tutors through City Year UK. They're helping children who are growing up in some pretty tough circumstances, to do better with their school work and have a better time at school. Just to give you an idea, they'll be young people like Kayleigh, Kingsley and Fiza.
Kayleigh's currently volunteering in Birmingham. She frequently found herself in trouble when she was younger, but no one ever thought to ask her why she was misbehaving or tried to understand her. She has become that person now; the one who listens and who makes children believe they are capable of achieving anything, whatever else is going on in their lives.
Kingsley's in London. He had a really happy childhood, a stable and supportive family and got involved in everything at school, going on to achieve academically. He says his greatest challenge was balancing his education with his social life and sleep! It was only later that he realised that for many, what he considered a normal upbringing, was privileged. He was shocked how factors outside a child's control could determine their future. He decided to do something about it.
And finally, on to Fiza in Manchester. Her mum was a single parent and she has four young siblings so had to help out early on. Constantly bullied, her responsibilities at home meant that she couldn't spend time with friends outside school, which left her isolated. Now she's helping children tackle issues that she faced herself.
These are just three of the 500 young people I've met in the last five years who are passionate about social change and have the energy and talent to make a difference. Nobody is making them; they're driven to do this by compassion rather than compulsion.
To better explain where I'm coming from, back in 1968, just eight years after the end of National Service in the UK, Martin Luther King gave his last sermon. In it, he said:
"Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve...You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love."
As you yourself have found, service offers a common meeting ground. It can be a great equalizer that's not interested in social divisions and it has the potential to make everyone who's willing to take part great. But not everyone has an interest in becoming a soldier or the military. Why not come and meet those who are choosing to serve by building a better society? I think that you'll find our 21st century vision of service is already doing so much good for thousands of children and young people.Suggest a correction