Recently, the 14-year-old student Alma von Raggamby wrote a plea in WELT against the introduction of compulsory social service. Young people at the end of their school days need freedom and should not be condemned to “menial jobs that nobody else wants to do”.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was one of the many people who read this plea. In a letter to the editor, he replied to the student – ​​and promoted his idea of ​​compulsory social time. In the following we document Steinmeier’s letter.

dear alma,

A few days ago you wrote a comment on compulsory social time in the daily newspaper “Die Welt”. I find your arguments very interesting, all the more so as I think it is important that very young people like you also take part in the debate about the idea of ​​compulsory social time. And that’s why I would like to answer you.

I understand your concern that only young people could be obliged to serve society. That they should do jobs that no one else would do and that might be badly paid. Therefore, I would like to use my answer to you to say very clearly: That’s exactly what I don’t want either.

What I want is that we find ideas and ways of how we as a community can be there for each other again. When I came up with the idea of ​​compulsory social time, my main concern was to be open. This time should not be limited to certain age groups from the outset. It doesn’t have to be a year; it can be made shorter or perhaps flexible: not in one go, but in sections.

Dear Alma, we live in a time when many people predominantly grow up and remain in their social bubble, first in school, then in training or studies; The distance also continues at work. We use social media more intensively than ever before and thus run the risk of only communicating with like-minded people who are interested in the same topics. The years of the pandemic have amplified the tendencies.

My concern is that with social distancing, prejudices are also growing – between young and old; between rich and poor; between the natives and the immigrants; between religions and cultures. That’s why I wish that we would find ways to meet again across social boundaries.

Like you, dear Alma, I am against government paternalism and patronage. I want every young person to have the chance to use their talents and inclinations to find their own path and personal happiness.

Only: If you are looking for the “I” in a democracy, you have to think about the “we”. And I believe that “we” can get a new chance in a socially obligatory time, i.e. a time of charitable activity in which respect for the life and life plans of others grows. You could possibly do this compulsory time not only in social institutions, but also in the fire brigade, the THW, civil protection or the armed forces. The conceivable possibilities are almost endless.

Dear Alma, I would be happy if we all continued the discussion about compulsory social time – and if young people like you continued to get involved.

Warm greetings from

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal President