The value of giving back

I once reported on a fascinating national survey that found that women of Montana roots are the most sought-after nannies in the country.

The story explained that when parents weren’t fortunate enough to raise their families in this great state, they wanted nannies who were raised here to instill in their children the morals and values ​​expected (hopefully) of a Montana upbringing inherits

Montana has, of course, finished at or near the top in numerous national polls, whether for best downhill skiing or the more whimsical Best State for Skin Health.

Now, on a much more serious note, the University of Montana has been named the nation’s #1 institution for community and nation service.

The honor was given by Washington Monthly in its annual College Guide and Rankings, which, unlike another magazine’s popular survey of colleges and universities, ranks schools on more rigorous and meaningful criteria — in this case, what they do for the country.

I am reminded of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address – “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” – inspiring young and old alike to appreciate the importance of public service and of civic engagement.

I’m a longtime reader and former contributor to Washington Monthly, which stands apart from other publications in the nation’s capital. Some may recall founder and former editor Charles Peters’ (he turns 96 next month) popular column “Tilting at Windmills,” which has appeared in every issue of the magazine from its inception in 1969 through 2014.

Peters and his mix of spirited young writers (Jon Meacham began his writing career at Washington Monthly) have remained faithful to the magazine’s mission to look at Washington “as an anthropologist looks at a South Sea island, and to help the reader understand our system.” of politics and government to understand where it is breaking down and what can be done to make it work.”

In other words, a much deeper dive that few news or political publications would ever attempt. Given today’s unprecedented divisions in politics and government, I cannot imagine the current challenges facing the monthly.

However, what I have always admired most about the magazine, especially in times of political polarization, is that it is not a mouthpiece for ideologues or committed to any political persuasion, but through its mission an independent voice “ready to take on sacred cows – liberal and conservative.”

As for the annual college rankings, the magazine explains that it is “our response to the US News & World Report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity and prestige.”

Ouch! But which, in my book, gives even more merit to the UM Proclamation — the nation’s top institution for the “highest concentration of community and national service.”

Each year, the Monthly Report ranks schools like UM in three broad categories for their contributions to the community: social mobility, research, and the promotion of public service.

For the latter grouping, which encompasses everything from community leadership and military service to student voter registration and volunteerism, UM outperformed the country’s most respected public and private institutions, including Notre Dame, George Washington, Duke, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins.

“This ranking validates what defines a UM education: that our students and alumni understand the value of giving back,” responded University of Montana President Seth Bodnar.

“A life of impact, along with the understanding that we have a greater calling to something greater than ourselves, is truly the gift of education.”

John McCaslin is a veteran print and broadcast journalist and author.