The G.I. Bill fueled not only the development of the middle class: it also revitalized American democracy. Americans who came of age during World War II joined fraternal groups and neighborhood and community organizations and took part in politics at rates that made the postwar era the twentieth century's civic "golden age." Drawing on extensive interviews and surveys with hundreds of members of the "greatest generation," Suzanne Mettler finds that by treating veterans as first-class citizens and in granting advanced education, the Bill inspired them to become the active participants thanks to whom memberships in civic organizations soared and levels of political activity peaked. Mettler probes how this landmark law produced such a civic renaissance. Most fundamentally, she discovers, it communicated to veterans that government was for and about people like them, and they responded in turn. In our current age of rising inequality and declining civic engagement, Soldiers to Citizens offers critical lessons about how public programs can make a difference.
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Suzanne Mettler is Alumni Associate Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, at Syracuse University. She is the author of the prize-winning Dividing Citizens.
"As a beneficiary of the GI Bill, I can't recommend enough Suzanne Mettler's examination of the Bill and its transformative effect on the lives of so many veterans like me. It's clear that Mettler has come to know the GI Bill through the veterans she met in the course of her research, and the result is as accurate a description of its design, implementation, and of the experiences of the soldiers who benefited from it as I have read. This book is a must-read not only for those interested in the Greatest Generation but also for anyone who wants to know what it takes to make a great country."--Senator Bob Dole
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