President Gearan: Good afternoon, and welcome. I know what you're all thinking, who's that woman up there with Mark Gearan wearing a Hobart and William Smith scarf?
Good afternoon and welcome to the first of the President's Forum Lecture Series.
This is a series of lectures and meetings that I've started for two purposes. First is to allow for the kind of robust discussion of ideas from a wide variety of speakers that will come to our campus and engage in a good dialogue with our students, with our faculty, and our staff. But it is also my hope that the President's forum will allow our guests the chance to see what I have seen in the past four months here on campus -- the rich vitality, the intellectual curiosity, the friendliness and indeed, the momentum that we're enjoying in today's Hobart and William Smith.
Today we take up the topic of service. And it's an appropriate one, given this campus and our mission, and certainly for our guest speaker. Hobart and William Smith has an active public service office that facilitates public service initiatives with a wide variety of local groups. Our students here participate in the America Reads Program and with our faculty, are actively involved in the American Commitments Program that places students in service learning situations through their coursework. Our students are also very involved in the successful Geneva Heroes Youth Service Corps, a program that was started on this campus by our students that engages middle school students in service projects and leadership activities. And as many people in this room know, we are proud of our Celebrate Service, Celebrate Geneva Day, where more than a thousand students, faculty, community folks get together in the spring for a day of service.
It's appropriate too, we talk about service, because of the work of our students certainly, but also because of the commitment to service of our faculty. They, in addition to the their dedication to their own teaching and their own scholarship, dedicate a great deal of their personal time on service-related activities right here in Geneva and in the region. From the leadership of the Geneva Concert Series to the Chamber of Commerce, to their own churches and synagogues, the local library, from prison education projects to women's collective projects, from Oxfam to Amnesty International, our faculty here at Hobart and William Smith do great honor to themselves in my judgement by their service, but also reflect very well for our own students, and serve as models and mentors for them, that amidst their very busy lives, both personal and professional, that addition to their own teaching and their own scholarship, they dedicate a great deal of their own time to helping others to help themselves; and so too with our staff.
In fact, six of our colleagues from our own Buildings and Grounds Department recently traveled this past weekend to Owensboro, Kentucky to work and to aid the staff of Kentucky Weslyan University that had been devastated by a tornado that swept through that region. Our colleagues from Building and Grounds took chains saws and generators with them to help them rebuild their campus. That's the kind of community we have here at Hobart and William Smith.
This is also the community that welcomes our partners in service from the area agencies, many who join us today. Allow me the privilege of introducing one gentlemen who has recently retired from St. Stephen's Church here in Geneva. He has a long history here in Geneva. He embodies community service very well, and the entire community recently honored him. Monsignor Krieg, please allow us to thank you. …(applause)… So it is in this context that we gather today.
Last night at Community Service House many of us got together, faculty and staff and our students, with a very good turnout, to talk about some of these issues that Mike Harms led. He led the discussion for us on service learning and other issues. Our format today, at Mrs. Clinton's request will be a dialogue. First we will hear from Mrs. Clinton, and then turn to our two students, who have been very involved in service here on campus. But quite frankly, it was a difficult task to ask just two students to be here on stage, because there are so many of our students who made service an integral part of their undergraduate experience here at Hobart and William Smith.
William Smith senior Jen Leshnower is an American studies major, and a public service minor, and has been the coordinator of the Geneva Heroes Youth Service Corps, among many activities here on campus, including as a student trustee. Hobart senior Michael Harms is a sociology major and a public service minor. He's a Templeton Fellow, and as I mentioned, he led last night's discussion and he has been very involved in the Celebrate Service, Celebrate Geneva Program. Before we get to our student speakers allow me to say a few things of introduction about our guest speaker.
In welcoming Hillary Clinton to Hobart and William Smith, it is of course a great personal privilege for me to have Mrs. Clinton come as the inaugural speaker of the President's Forum. It's been great fun for Mary and I to welcome her to our home recently, where Madeline gave her some Girl Scout cookies. But in many ways of course, because Mrs. Clinton really needs no introduction to you. I'd like to take just a few minutes, if I may, Mrs. Clinton, to introduce the audience to you. Before you and literally all around you, is this very dynamic community of students and faculty and staff at Hobart and Williams Smith, as well as our local Geneva partners. In just my four months here on campus. I have been extremely impressed by the caliber of our students, the commitment of our faculty, and the dedication of our staff. And indeed this is a wonderful place with a great future able to take advantage of a great history and build upon the considerable momentum we now enjoy. That's who stands before you and seated before you and will engage in this dialogue. And now to our audience. What can I tell you about by friend Hillary Clinton that you don't already know. Well, she's smart and she's committed, she thinks about the important issues of the day, and really works for change. She values community service; in short, you'd think she would have gone to William Smith. Ladies and gentlemen, the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Mrs. Clinton: Thank you, thank you, thank you so much. I am absolutely delighted to be here with all of you and to have this occasion to be part of the inaugural lecture of the President's Forum. It is a great person privilege for me. I am a fan of your new president, and I told him and Mary that it was just an extra personal feeling when we pulled up in front of the president's house and saw them standing on the front porch with their daughters and my mind was going back the seven-plus years that I have known him so well and I want to congratulate the community here at Hobart and William Smith for having as part of this great system of colleges two people who are so devoted and will provide such wonderful leadership.
I was very honored as well to receive this invitation because I think that the whole idea of service is one that bears special thought. And I want to thank not only Mark, but the Provost, and the Dean of Hobart and the Dean of William Smith and Dean of the Faculty and the Board of Trustees, and all of the faculty and staff members, as well as the students, for taking this time out to talk about the meaning of service.
In a few minutes, Michael and Jen are going to lead us in a discussion about what service means here at the Colleges. I would like to take a few minutes to put it into a broader context. I believe that service is at the very core of who we are as Americans. I've often talked about what I believe makes up a society that in a democracy reaches out and embraces people, particularly those from different backgrounds, as our country has done for more than two hundred years. I picture society as a three-legged stool. One leg is the economy and we need a strong vibrant growing economy in a free market system that creates jobs and produces wealth and income so that people can pursue their own interests. The second leg is the government. Any society needs rules and regulations, people who are willing to take on public service, and in a democracy the government is us, but we need a very well-ordered government that is productive and that changes with the times, which is one of the great geniuses of our American system. But between the government and economy is much of what makes life worth living. Our faith, our families, our friends, our associations, our commitment to one another. And it is in many ways that unique third leg of the stool that America has pioneered and continued to lead the way in defining and demonstrating the importance of
Some people call that civil society, some people call it community, but whatever one calls it, it is critical that every generation continue to nurture that because we could have the strongest economy in the world but have a government that didn't work and have people who didn't care about one another and that wouldn't really by the kind of society most of us would want to live in. We could have a well functioning government, but an inept or incompetent economy and a society that was indifferent or that let the government do everything and that too would not be an attractive alternative. So what our founders understood was that there had to be a checks and balances system within our government and what American have always understood is that the pursuit of the American dreams, the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness requires that we do have enterprising people who are willing, with the sweat of their brow to build and create and pass on to the next generation.
But what others have recognized from the very beginning of America is that those habits of the heart that you cannot write into a constitution, that you cannot sell in the marketplace, those are what really distinguish Americans.
So as we meet today to talk about service we will be learning about what students here do. But I'd like all of us to stop and think about why that is important. The most fundamental kind of service that a democracy expects of any of us is citizenship. Doing the very fundamental task of voting. Being willing to pitch in and make decisions at the local level. Choosing, if one is so inclined to, stand for public office or to perform services within the government of a town or a village or a city or a county or a state or a country. So citizenship in and of itself is a service.
Mark and I had some wonderful times over the last several years when he headed the Peace Corps. In various countries around the world where we saw first hand the work that young American Peace Corps volunteers, and some not so young, because there were often people who had retired from their previous work, they were in their 60s and even 70s. What those people were doing through their service in places very far from here and what struck me over and over again what not just the dedication and the quality of the work that the volunteers did but how important the whole concept of volunteering was.
In so many of the place where I saw that work being performed, I was actually surprised when I began traveling on behalf of our government both with the President and alone to learn there are many places in our world that have no history of service. The idea of volunteering to help someone outside of your family or your clan or your tribe is a very foreign concept. There were even places that had formerly been in the Soviet Union or under other forms of authoritarian dictatorship where the idea of volunteering was a frightening one because there wasn't such a thing as a volunteer. The state told you what you did and you had to do it. So the idea of volunteering, the idea of service is one that we are spreading around the world, because here in the United States, we do understand how essential it is for a democracy to be carried forward because of the volunteer efforts of its citizens. So I've been pleased to work with people in different parts of the world to set up volunteer corps, to recommend how young people could be engaged in doing volunteer service. To create the idea that this is something that a democracy needs if it is to survive. It is not enough to have elections or a parliament or a judiciary, you have to have those habits of the heart.
So I was very pleased that we could, as this inaugural lecture, talk about service in a place that values service, that offers it to its students, that engages the faculty and staff, that reaches out into the community. And I'm looking forward to learning more about what the students here believe about service, and perhaps making some suggestions about how we can ensure that the idea of service is passed on, year and year, and generation after generation.
One of the President's most fond accomplishments as the President of the United States, not President Gearan, is the National Service Corporation, and particularly AmeriCorps. Because we are trying to do here at home what we have done around the world through the Peace Corps, to give young Americans the chance to serve right here in Geneva and throughout New York, throughout the United States. Because we believe that service doesn't happen by accident. It is something that has to be cultivated and nurtured, starting in one's home, then one's church, and synagogue, in one's neighborhood, in one's school.
I can't even remember the first time that I was called on to serve. It was something that was so natural in my family and my church that from a very early age, we were expected to do something that would try to help someone else. So I was, as a child, in and out of nursing homes and working with the Girl Scouts, as Madeline does, being prepared to help wherever I was asked to help. It didn't seem like something special, but it was a big part of how I grew up. I think its important that we always ensure that the value of service is a part of growing up in America and then offering an organized way to perform service such as you do here or now such as AmeriCorps represents, will ensure that those habits of the heart that have always marked the American experience are alive and well far into the future. Thank you all and I look forward to our conversation.
Michael Harms: Mrs. Clinton, on behalf the Hobart and William Smith students, Jennifer and I would like to welcome you to our community. You come at a very exciting time at Hobart and William Smith for community service and service learning. Last night, as Mark mentioned, we hosted the Templeton Fellows and Campus Compact Templeton Fellows interview and campus dialogue on community service and service learning. At last night's event we had about 100 guests show up and it was a wonderful mix of community members, students, faculty, administrators, and staff at the colleges. We had a wonderful time talking about service and celebrating the wonderful accomplishments that have happened in the Geneva community and at Hobart and William Smith.
In addition to celebrating, we also had a critical dialogue about service. We started to raise some very difficult questions. We talked about the implications of requiring service and we also talked about where community service, service learning and public service fit into the American government. Lots of us from that discussion last night are here today and we're really excited to continue that dialogue with you. The Hobart and William Smith culture, the Geneva culture, is a culture of service and we're excited to share this culture with you today.
Jennifer Leshnower: And as we look at the faces and see all the people this really represents the range of service here. We have people who do one-day projects to projects that last every day of the week. Our range is also within student organizations, to fraternities, to student government, to work in class, as well as work outside of the classroom. So really we represent here a range of service opportunities.
Michael Harms: Jen and I want to start by sharing with you some of the national initiatives that happen at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and one of those is the American Commitments Program. The American Commitments Program is our service learning program at Hobart and William Smith and begins with the premise that academic coursework connected with community service, when those two come together, we have service learning and that really makes the learning process so much more engaging and we can get a lot more out of it. So one might wonder what courses, like a course on the Holocaust or Sociology of Community or by disciplinary course on AIDS have in common. Well, in fact, at Hobart and William Smith the common link between all of these courses is public service and service learning. Each of these courses, along with many courses here have service at their core. I took a class with Professor Jack Harris, who's with us today, called Sociology of Community and in that class we had to do service learning. My service site was the middle school and I went in one time a week for about three hours after school and I tutored middle school students in reading and mathematics. Jen was also part of that class.
Jennifer Leshnower: We were in the class together, Sociology of Community, and my project was to go to the community lunch program. I worked with Marge Shannahan out there in the audience, we served between 80-100 lunches a day and it was a great way to interact with the community, work with the community, and understand some of the issues that affect our community of Geneva.
Mrs. Clinton: What I things I like about what you're doing is the way you connect up the Colleges with the community. That is still a tension in some places, so it's very good to hear that the work you do on campus and your outreach has partners that you work with out in the larger community.
Jennifer Leshnower: And we were able to celebrate that partnership at the end of Sociology of Community. Our class's final project was to bring us all together. All of our service sites throughout that 10-week period came back to campus, we had a community picnic here and we were able to share our experiences with everyone else in that class because we all did different sites.
Mrs. Clinton: What are some of the other kinds of programs that you know are represented by the students here?
Michael Harms: One service learning program that I was part of last term that I know there are some people here from, Sue for example, in the front row, was a theater class where we learned about drama in a development context; how drama connects to education and we learned about drama all term-long and for two weeks at the end of the term we ran a drama institute for local school children, and I'm sure Sue can share a little bit more about that later on during the dialogue.
Jennifer Leshnower: What I want to talk about is actually who we see out there. What we've talked about is just one American Commitments course and what we also have an opportunity to do is combine those American Commitments courses. Mike mentioned Sociology of Community. There's also a bi-disciplinary course on AIDS Awareness. I took one with Professor Rimmerman, Community Politics in Service, and I'm looking at my first political science class professor, Professor D'Amico, who is also an American Commitments professor. What we do is we have an opportunity to combine those courses and create a minor. That's an important part and it ends with a capstone piece which is, we take all those themes that we've talked about in public service… community, diversity, leadership, democracy, development, organization and how do we bring those together and make it part of a community dialogue. And that was a really important piece to when I finished my public service minor, was to connect those together.
Mrs. Clinton: You know, I would be interested in how many of the students here have engaged in some kind of community service. How about the faculty and staff? How many people are engaged in community service? When we talk about service we're really talking about a variety of kinds of service, aren't we? There are organized programs, there are classes, there are more informal ways of serving and I'd be interested in knowing some more about that.
Jennifer Leshnower: One of them is America Reads and I'm looking out and seeing both tutors and students who've been affected by the America Reads program, which is another national initiative started on this…not started on this campus but we took it up three years ago as a commitment to literacy. What it does is really brings together our skills in leadership and mentoring. And it's a program that we keep alive both with the local elementary school, we've talked about partnership and that's important that we have that partnership with local elementary schools. Five days a week we have a hundred of our students work with 200 elementary kids teaching them basic skills of reading.
Mrs. Clinton: You know, that was an idea that we were so pleased that students all over America responded to because we learned through research that a child who doesn't read well by the end of the third grade will have a very difficult time ever becoming a good reader. It can happen, and certainly there are many exceptions to that, but in general it is much more difficult. And so when the President proposed America Reads, there were some as Mark might remember, who just could not imagine that we would have the response from college campuses that we've had of so many students willing to go into elementary schools across America and help these children learn how to read, but if you take just the example you gave…how many students from the colleges here?
Jennifer Leshnower: At least a hundred…
Mrs. Clinton: At least a hundred and so that's in just one area where you can multiply it many times over. And we're beginning to see some results. I mean, reading scores for young children are actually going up and there are many reasons for that but I certainly believe one of them is that for the last three or fours years now we've had American Reads volunteers who are doing that work all over the country.
What about Habitat for Humanity? You have a chapter working on that too, don't you?
President Gearan: Absolutely.
Jennifer Leshnower: Let's just throw it right out to the students. Two of our students, Lindsey Vaughn and Todd Patterson.
President Gearan: We have some floating mics around, perhaps we could get some of our spotters… Todd and Lindsey.
Mrs. Clinton: Maybe you could introduce yourselves when you make your comments.
President Gearan: Lindsey, stand right up…there's only 2,000 of your best friends here. Pay no attention to these people behind you.
Lindsey Vaughn: I'm a junior at William Smith and in the fall, myself and Ave Bauder, the Director of Public Service, and Todd had an idea of starting up a Habitat for Humanity Chapter here on campus. It started out as an idea and we were just saying that we can't believe we're actually sitting here right now. It's been great, we've had more than a hundred students involved, coming to meetings, not quite that many have gotten out to a site, but, we're hoping to get them out there, there's just not enough work right now to be done. We've had opportunities from different community organizations to have us come in and build stuff aside from Habitat work. We are currently completing a house in Penn Yan, which is about 20 miles down the road for a family of four. It's been a great opportunity to meet the family, know the kids, and it's just been excellent. I'll give it to Todd to finish up.
Todd Patterson: I'm Todd Patterson. I'm a freshman here at Hobart. I think one of the reasons that brings me back to Habitat is the reward that not only I get from it, but I can give to somebody else. We were at the Habitat project down in Yates County one weekend and we had just put all the drywall up in the little son's bedroom and he came in; and it was a relatively small bedroom, and he was telling us everywhere…where his bed was going to be, where his computer would be and then he stopped for a second and he said "I'm going to have a lot of room left over" and to me, being able to put somebody in a home like that is just one of the most fantastic things. That's what keeps me coming back.
Mrs. Clinton: You know I've participated in a few Habitat projects around the country and I just have to echo what both of you said, that it's one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. When you talk about what it means to you, with your friends, what kind of response do you get?
Todd Patterson: There's a definite mix of responses from students. Some view it as ‘You know, I don't have the time, I don't want to get up early in the morning every Saturday' and yet others have shown just tremendous support for the whole cause; so there's a mixed reaction there and I don't know where it comes from or how to maybe even change it, but that's what I see.
Mrs. Clinton: We were talking before we came out about the different attitudes people have about service. Some people are very enthusiastic and other people really don't see the need for any personal involvement. Michael, have you, in your work, thought of ways of talking about service that includes and attracts more people?
Michael Harms: One of the things that I did last night was to make sure that the dialogue includes lots of different people from lots of different areas. For example, it's really difficult to have a dialogue about community service without pulling in the community. And that's one of the reasons that I think it's so wonderful that this is an open event today. We can't have a dialogue without considering lots of different viewpoints. Also last night, we asked people to speak from their own experiences. One of the things we kept hearing was that it's important to find a program that connects for you. One of the things that I think we'll hear from other students is that a lot of people who haven't found a formal program that they've liked have taken the initiate to create their own. For example, Margrethe over here, a math student, she put together her own math program. Maybe she can tell us a little bit about that.
Mrs. Clinton: I may need to join your math program.
Margrethe Flanders: My name is Margrethe Flanders. I'm a senior and a math major and last year, in part because of some of my own experiences with middle school math, I started a program for a group of very talented girls, some of whom are here with me today. We meet once a week after school and we do some really fun math activities. Its been wonderful to really see the activities that have really caught their imagination and their attention and I've learned a lot about not only them but about myself and how much I love helping girls see the beauty and excitement that is in math.
Mrs. Clinton: Did somebody do that for you or is it the fact that it wasn't done for you what motivated you to want to help other young women?
Margrethe Flanders: Well, I didn't really discover the excitement of math until I came here, but my experiences here really inspired me to go out and help these girls, and hopefully others as time go on.
President Gearan: Mrs. Clinton, joining Margareta there is our professor, Ann Oaks, who's been working with her on this program and perhaps Professor Oaks could add her perspective as a mentor to Margrethe.
Professor Oaks: It's interesting that we have four levels of mentors here because my mentor's also working with us on this project. She and I do research in gender issues in mathematics and many middle school children find that math isn't quite so much fun anymore and they find themselves going in other directions and not involving themselves and actually, on purpose, staying away. As one woman wrote, she said ‘I never even dated a mathematician' …(laughter). So what Margrethe is trying to do…by the way, Margrethe came to me in the beginning of her sophomore year, I knew her from just one course that we had together and she said ‘I want to start a workshop for middle school girls now', and I said "Well let's do an independent study together, and we did, and we've studied the issues of gender and I might add that the young girls who are involved in this are very enthusiastic and come on Friday evening after school, which is a hard time, and have a wonderful time. So, Margretha is one of our wonderful shining stars in our department and I want everyone to know you can do community service in mathematics without tutoring remedial math.
Mrs. Clinton: You know Mark, I'd be interesting in hearing from some of the faculty about why they think service belongs on a college campus, because there are those who argue that the mission of a college or university should be the individual transmission of knowledge or job skills and that service is not part of the curriculum, it shouldn't be part of the pedagogic experience and I'd like to know whether some of the faculty or perhaps some of the people who participated with you last night, Michael, could speak to that, about the role of service and the life of the mind on a college campus.
Michael Harms: There are a lot of American Commitments faculty right out here.
Jennifer Leshnower: Political Science Professor Craig Rimmerman is a definite expert on the subject.
President Gearan: My experience, Mrs. Clinton, in four months is we won't have a retiring faculty here to speak to…
Mrs. Clinton: The tables are turned though, the students are calling on the faculty.
Craig Rimmerman: And they're enjoying every minute of this I think. Thank you for the privilege Mark, for this opportunity. I have required community service in a number of my political science courses and I come at this from a little bit more of a radical vantage point. I want students to think about structural inequities and inequalities that create conditions under which people live their lives in less privileged situations than many of the people in this room or certainly than myself. So, we talk at length about moral, ethical, and public policy issues relating to education, health care, inequalities with respect to class and these are the sorts of things we have discussions and debates about. I have a question for you though to throw out on the table, for us to think about. To what extent do you think service is connected in any way to politics and are you worried in any way that this generation of young people will use service as a substitute for getting involved in politics. It's a particularly germane question for you because, I, like many of us in this room, hope you'll be in the United States Senate a year from now… (applause)…very much so. And in order for that to happen, you know its going to be a tight race and you're going to need the support and the energy of the young people in this room who live in the State of New York. So, what we need are for students to link, it seems to me, the work that they do in the community to public policy at all levels of government; at the state level, the local level, and certainly at the national level.
Mrs. Clinton: That's a wonderful question. I've actually thought about it because there've been some recent surveys of attitudes among young Americans and the surveys prove something I believe, which is that we have a wonderful generation of young Americans.
These are very positive young people. Although sometimes they're not portrayed that way, I always tell groups that I'm very proud of the young men and women, the teenagers, the people in their twenties whom I meet and whom I know, are very committed to finding meaning in their own lives and giving something back.
But, what the surveys also show is that there is a general turning away from the political process as a way to find that meaning or to make that contribution to society, that there is a great deal of interest in service as we've already seen and will hear more about, but that somehow politics, which is really the life-blood of a democracy, how we make decisions together for our common good, that has become an issue that really turns off a lot of young men and women. It seems disconnected from the lives that you lead here at college or in the larger community. And so I think the question is very important, because as I look at what the challenges are facing New York or America, many of them can be addressed by individual effort, by service projects. It really does make a difference and it really does help America if you help that third- grader learn to read, you tutor that young girl to perhaps expand her educational horizons, you build that house for a fellow citizen. Those are all critical parts of how we define ourselves. But politics is also an enterprise that is essential to how we make decisions together. You can build houses one by one but if you have a housing program that built them by the hundreds there would be more young boys like the one you met who would be able to have his own room and think about his own future.
It's not and it shouldn't be an either-or question; either service or politics, but in fact one's service should inform one's ideals and values as a citizen and one's participation in the political process. So, I believe that part of what service provides for young people is an opportunity to, as exactly as the professor said, to learn about what goes on in the larger society; to recognize that even as we enter this new century of great prosperity in America there still are children who are not enjoying the blessings that many of us take for granted and much of what we have to figure out how to do is to help support families and parents and provide mentoring and other help so that no child gets left behind in our country.
There are ways we can do that individually and there are ways we can do that through politics, through the government of the local community or the federal level and that's the kind of thinking that I would like to see more of us really discuss because service alone is a good but is it sufficient for what we need in a democracy to solve the larger problems that we face. Before I came here, I stopped in Lyons and had lunch at a small restaurant there and talked with the Mayor and some of the people in that community and they are getting some resources to try to enhance the Erie Canal. Now, that's a very good idea in my book because this is a part of the country and part of our history that needs to get more support and understanding and could be an attraction into some of the communities here that have fallen on hard times economically. They could have a lot of service projects to keep the canal clean, or they could have entrepreneurs come in and put in business, but in the absence of a partnership between the government and the business and the service communities, they will not do everything that needs to be done in order to help their community so I think we have to start looking at this in a broader way.
I really appreciate your raising that point. I'd like to ask more of the students who've had some service experience whether they do see a connection with politics or whether as far as they're concerned, service is what they're interested in and politics is something they'd just as soon not be a part of for all kinds of reasons that they might have experience with. .Does anybody want to address that?
Jennifer Leshnower: I just want to mention quickly that last winter, 50 of us went to Washington , D.C., during a really difficult time and we all had an opportunity to intern whether it was on the Hill, the Children's Defense Fund, LUAC. The different organizations there were where we were able to see both the federal workings and apply it to something that we were interested in. I know that Yoselin Genao interned at LUAC and had some really great experiences and was able to bring it back to our campus through her work with the Latin American organization. Maybe you have something you want to share with us?
Yoselin Genao: I was interning at LUAC which is the largest Latino Civil Rights Organization, and I had the opportunity to see at the national level what the concerns for the Latino community are as we become the largest minority in the next five years. Also, after I did my internship, I was trying to put it together in the local perspective -- what we can do to help the migrant workers, and immigrants. Through the Colleges Latin American Organization this year, we are trying to work together with the community in Geneva with the migrant workers; know what are their needs, what are their concerns and also we went to one of the camps last term and we saw the horrible situations and their living situations and afterwards we did a clothing drive. This term, we're trying to do an immigration symposium and next week we're going to celebrate the spirit of Martin Luther King and the Three Kings birthdays, and we're going to have a day of community, a day of joy, where we integrate in the Black and Latinos. We're celebrating with the Geneva community as well. And if you want to be a part, just let me know. (applause)
Mike Harms: Jen and I have done a lot of talking about formal service initiatives, but we also wanted to share with you that the informal service initiatives are something really important to Hobart and William Smith. Lots of people who come here, come having done lots of community service and service learning work in high school. So often some of the people's first terms on campus people become really connected to service learning and community service initiatives. We've heard about some of them already. Everyone from fraternities to sports teams to student organizations to the peer education and human relations program to the education department to individuals or groups of friends coming together really have transformed the way we think about service.
Mrs. Clinton: I'd love to hear about some of those informal arrangements that people have been part of and how they came about and what they meant to people who participated. Anybody want to raise your hand?
Jennifer Leshnower: Well, I'm looking out right in the center at Jenna Logan who with the help of the Public Service Office and Ave Bauder and Teresa Dulko, have put together alternative break. Well, I'll let you talk about it.
Jenna Logue: I'm Jenna Logue, I'm a junior here, and what I'm doing here is I work in the Public Service office and while I was there one day the director and I were talking about possible projects that I could get involved in and he said, "Well, I've heard about students who go out during their spring break or summer break and do service somewhere where it's warmer but where they need service. So what I decided to do is go on-line.
Warm weather and community service will make everybody happy. We went on-line and I found a website that discussed some needs in North Carolina and what I did was I decided to organize a group of people. I would have applications go out. I'm in the process of reviewing those right now. We're going to go down to North Carolina, work on a farm, a different farm everyday for our entire spring break and I think that's important because not only are we helping others but we're giving up our break, which is something that most people are not willing to do. So, I'm very excited to work with whomever I end up accepting to take with me.
Mrs. Clinton: So you used the Internet to find some information. Now there's a whole new idea about hooking people up for service opportunities.
Jenna Logue: It was exciting because I just typed in ‘alternative break' and I came up with a whole different selection. So, I was excited to see that it was so easy to get something that many people may not know about and I could just get it right there, it was pretty nice.
Mrs. Clinton: Great!
President Gearan: Did you want to talk about fraternities?
Michael Harms: Yeah, Scott Mooney from the inter-fraternity council can share some information about the Hobart fraternities.
Scott Mooney: Hello, my name's Scott Mooney, I'm the voice of the fraternities here today. I'm also President of the Interfraternity Council that is the governing board of the five national fraternities of Hobart College. We run a real unique fraternal system here, it's called the Accreditation Model and there are six goals we want to try to work towards and every two years each fraternity is reviewed upon. One of the major goals is promoting citizenship and developing community service programs. There's many programs that each fraternity follows individually, and as the Interfraternity Council as a whole, some of them are for example, working with Lakeview Mental Health services, clothing drives, food drives, soup kitchens, pumpkin carving, haunted houses during Halloween. It's just nice. I believe as an education, there's more to gain than just academics but develop a character too. Programs such as these and being involved with fraternities help to develop character like this.
Mrs. Clinton: How long has citizenship and service been one of your goals at the Interfraternity Council?
Scott Mooney: Since I've been a member of the fraternal system, about three years. I know Hobart has a long history of fraternities and I believe its been the same over time. Aaron Frishman here is the Vice President of the Inter-fraternity Council; I don't know if he has any thing to add.
President Gearan: I should just say, while Aaron is getting the mic, Mrs. Clinton, that although your schedule didn't allow it, one of the fraternities has invited you for dinner tonight.
Mrs. Clinton: Maybe I could get a rain check.
President Gearan: There you go, Aaron.
Aaron Frishman: I don't think there's too much more to say than what Scott has already touched on. We've done a lot more work with local organizations as well, rather than just doing things initiated by ourselves. We did a blood drive last fall for the school and other types of relief. I know my fraternity, helped two years ago with a disaster relief fund being organized by the Red Cross for Upstate New York, where there was an ice storm and lot of people were without power and such. We went around the local neighborhoods here gathering money, donations, clothing and anything anyone could donate for those people, and that's just an example.
Mrs. Clinton: That's a really good example and what I'd like to do is perhaps hear from some of the agencies you worked with. I mean, what does it mean to run the Red Cross or another humanitarian agency and have young people like this here at the Colleges who could be part of a blood drive or a disaster relief effort. Perhaps some of the people who run community agencies could talk about service from that perspective.
Esther Bevers-Ng: I am with the Red Cross and the Colleges have helped us. We have a program for AmeriCorps that will send college students out on disasters too. So, with our blood drive, with the.international relief, we had some students at the local high school that just brought in school chests for the children in Kosovo. So, we're very active in promoting and assisting volunteers to do those programs. I also sit on a local emergency board where I get together with all the other agencies, like you mentioned, the soup kitchen, the Center for Concern, the different agencies work together and can use your help. Just please come in and see us. I believe right in this area there are quite a few agencies that came today to see you, Mrs. Clinton, and also to show our appreciation for the students.
Mrs. Clinton: It's a good partnership that you have going here, Mark, and I hope that even more community groups will work to create those partnerships with the Colleges, because I go back to something we were talking about earlier. You know, Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘Anyone can be great because anyone can serve, but sometimes people need help knowing how to serve. And I know that you have training programs, you have courses, fraternities, student organizations. Other people are there to sort of show the way. So somebody shouldn't feel that it's just out of their league that they wouldn't know how to do it. Could you talk a little bit about how we help prepare students for service?
Michael Harms: I'd actually like to turn that out to some of the other students who do service. Maybe someone from the back.
President Gearan: There is a back here, isn't there.
Mrs. Clinton: There is a back here. We don't want to turn our back on the back. Anybody want to talk about your service experience? Do you want to? OK, you're the mic holder.
Jennifer Leshnower: Scott, Scott Alderman.
(Student): I'm just holding the microphone.
Mrs. Clinton: OK, well that's service. Thank you very much.
Scott Alderman: My name's Scott Alderman. I'm a junior at Hobart College. The community service program that I primarily partake in is the Geneva Day of Service and I've been involved in that for the last two years. I think it's interesting what we're talking about here. If you look around at a lot of the stuff that we've heard this afternoon, the people in this room have been introduced to service have been introduced through the Colleges and even the woman who spoke just a few minutes ago, how she said it's the college kids that are helping the college faculty, and I just think it's interesting and maybe a question to pose to you is: what happens to areas that don't have places like Hobart College or big schools or what not that can't supply the manpower and the time? What do we do for those areas and then perhaps as a branch question off of that would be ‘where do you see the relationship between politics and community service as it stands now? What could be done or what policies or actions could be done to change that relationship?
Mrs. Clinton: Those are also very good questions. Let me start with the first one, because certainly in a community like this with Colleges with many young people willing to help, that's a much better situation than many places, even in Upstate New York, which many of you know has had some and continues to have some real economic problems. There's probably more needs to be filled within a hundred miles of where we are right now than any of us can imagine. So what does happen when there is a community and there are always in every community in New York or in America, people who are dedicated to service but there aren't enough hands to go around.
Well, one of the answers is AmeriCorps, a national service, and it's not just for young people. It's also a senior corps. We want to enlist more older Americans in the idea of service and give them some way to help their community and their fellow citizens. So, many of the projects that AmeriCorps or the senior corps do are in places that really need the volunteers. There are just not enough people to go around to try to help. And, I've seen in some very poor areas of our country, AmeriCorps volunteers helping to immunize children, bringing meals to housebound elderly people or chronically ill people, helping to do environmental work or Habitat for Humanity work. So one of our goals is to create a much bigger group of AmeriCorps volunteers and make sure that they go to places where we don't have students like you have here at Hobart and William Smith, but where the need is very great. The President will be presenting his budget and the State of the Union address in a few weeks and he'll be asking the Congress for more funding for AmeriCorps, a national service, because we've already had more than one hundred thousand young Americans go through AmeriCorps and earn money for their own college experience, either so that they can go or continue going or pay back student loans. So, it's a very good way of helping somebody get educated as well as that person helping a fellow citizen. I would like to see national service expanded. I'd like to see more Americans, especially older Americans, we're all going to be thankfully living longer, we'll be healthier longer so that we could give back even in to our seventies and our eighties if we have opportunities to do so. But you raise a very good point, because there's more need than there are hands to help that need, which is why, and this gets to your second question, I don't believe you can rely just on charity to take care of people's needs. We need government programs that are available that serve as the social safety net that help people help themselves and that can work with private agencies and volunteers.
You know, I have been involved in service for longer than most of you've been alive. And I know how rewarding it is personally and how important it is to keep so many of our communities going, and it's really a lifeline for many people. But, you could not take all of the needs that Americans have and expect our churches, our philanthropic institutions, our volunteers to meet those needs. That is unrealistic, it is unworkable. So, from my perspective, what we want to do is to connect government programs that work with volunteers who work and create partnerships between the public and the private sector.
And that really goes to your question, and the previous comment from the professor, ‘What is the role of service and what is the role of government in our society?' And, if you'll remember what I was talking about, I'd like to go back to that three-legged stool. You know if one leg is too big or too long, the balance is not there. If one is too short or absent, the balance is not there. I think the genius of our American system is this balance that we've always had between our government, our economy and our civil society, where we do the volunteer work, where we associate with one another. The Red Cross, fraternities, Habitat for Humanity, those are all part of a civil society. If you remove any one of those legs, if we get down on our government and we say ‘the government can't do anything right, get rid of it, get it out of our lives', well, that's fine until we have a disaster or we have needs that go unmet. If we say ‘I don't have to serve, that's not my job, let somebody else take care of it, let the government do it', then we lose the richness of the human experience and connection that really mark us as Americans. And, if we believe that the marketplace can do all this for us, then we misplace what the economy is for. You know, the economy is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. You work hard, you accumulate your resources, so that you can make something of your life, you can raise children, you can contribute to your community, you can make a contribution to Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
President Gearan: You might want to say that again.
Mrs. Clinton: You can do things with your resources. And it is that balance that I think we as Americans have to keep reminding ourselves of. And politics, with a small "p", is not just what we do to elect people to government positions. In a democracy, it's how we make decisions. You know, student government or Interfraternity Council or an association created to further any of the goals we're talking about. In a democracy, you have a mindset about how that will work, how you will compromise. You know, Jen or Michael can't stand up and say ‘Do it my way or no way and you can't participate otherwise.' That's not how a democracy works. People have to learn how to work together and they have to compromise. So, politics with a small "p", I'm always a little amused when people say to me, ‘Mrs. Clinton, how can you stand politics?' And I ask them, are they a member of a family or a church or an association, because politics, not the electoral politics, but the give and take in a democracy and human association requires us to figure out how to work with one another in a democracy. And so those three legs of that stool of American society have to be kept in balance. I would hope that the balance between citizenship service in the service sector and citizenship obligations in the political process are seen as reinforcing, not mutually exclusive so that as you do service you learn about the way our society works. You understand what the political system should be doing to help meet the need that you are helping to meet through service. So, for me these are not two different subjects but they really merge and I would hope that especially young people could make those connections between service and their lives and between service and the political process. (applause)
President Gearan: Mrs. Clinton, I think that it would be good for Jen to talk a bit about Geneva Heroes, because that is something that we're very proud of here. I think we have some of our heroes here that we could talk about. Jen, could you?
Jennifer Leshnower: Yes, I do and I want to just touch on what you were just talking about Mrs. Clinton. And I think the answer, and I think it's something we practice here is coalition politics, and Geneva Heroes is a perfect example. There's no way I could run a Heroes program, and our heroes are over here.
Just to give you a quick background, started by Hobart and William Smith students nearly five years ago it brings together the ideals of service, leadership, and commitment to community. We go out Saturdays in the fall and do service projects. We start at 8 a.m. in the morning on a Saturday and we have committed folks who do it, both from Hobart and William Smith, the Geneva high school, and the Geneva middle school. This gets to the point of coalition politics. There's no way we could have the Heroes Program without the student governments funding us. There's no way we could have the Heroes Program without the volunteers, or without the high school students, or without the middle school students who see the value in leadership and service back to their community. There's no way we could have this program without the local businesses, who help us, who feed us lunch. There's no way we could have it without the Superintendent of Schools, without the Guidance Counseling Office.
So what we have done with Geneva Heroes is work together, bringing those different parts of our community together and really foster teamwork. And that's our mission, we bring together a team and we do service. And that's how a lot of the experiences are for a lot of our students. Working with LAO, with the student government, with Habitat for Humanity, with the fraternities, and bringing us all together and making it what service is all about, which is bringing communities together.
Mrs. Clinton: Do we want to hear from some of those heroes you have over there?
Jennifer Leshnower: Megan or Ian? Carol? Isaac, I know you have something to say. Isaac has been a hero longer than I've been a hero. He started four years ago and has now returned as a high school leader.
Isaac Elliott: Hi, my name is Isaac Elliott. I've been a Geneva Hero for four years and I think it's a really good opportunity. Every Saturday morning we go out and we go to a site and we work with people. Not just older people; we work with younger people, we work at graveyards, and I think it's excellent. It should continue each and every year. If more people can continue to contribute money and whatever else, I think it could grow even. You know what I mean? (laughter and applause)
President Gearan: Megan, do you want to give a perspective as a William Smith student?
Megan McNally: Hi, my name is Megan and I'm a senior at William Smith. This my first year in the Geneva Heroes Program and we volunteered all throughout the community, met hundreds of people, raked leaves, worked at the Boys and Girls Club, we cleaned up playgrounds. Every Saturday was a different experience. It was great working with the community kids. I loved meeting the eighth graders, they were all fabulous and so were the high school kids. So much energy and so much community, and it's really neat to reach out and see other people outside of just Hobart and William Smith. I think that's what was most rewarding about the experience, and volunteering in general and your community.
Mrs. Clinton: You know I also think it's really significant that you're mentoring as well as you're volunteering and working with the middle school and high school students. It is a way of giving them a chance to be part of volunteering and service. You might very well have an influence on somebody just by working next to them and by helping them be part of the Heroes program. I really commend you. I think that's an excellent idea. I know that there are a lot of people who have thoughts and ideas about service. We've just scratched the surface about it and perhaps now we could see what people have to say or contribute and talk about this issue in some more depth.
President Gearan: We have a little bit of time on this schedule. Perhaps we could open up the floor to our guests. Could a microphone come over here? We have a couple questions for Mrs. Clinton right here.
Maureen Zupan: Mrs. Clinton, I'm Maureen Zupan, I've met you before. I think there's one thing you're missing in the discussion that everyone's having. I speak from very personal experience about service and that is from a selfish point of view. I had a personal experience in my life one night when I watched my daughter, who was born 13 years ago very, very ill, and waited for someone to come in on a Saturday night as a volunteer to give blood to keep her alive. I made a commitment that night, when I realized that I had never spent the time, had spent very little money, had not made any effort to give back to the community before. And here was someone, who was a stranger to me, giving back to me. I made a commitment that night that never again would I be on the wrong end of the balance of giving and taking. So, while you can all talk about helping people who are worse off than you, I speak from personal experience that you can be highly privileged and find yourself in a situation where you have to ask for help. But, you'll be able to do it, all of you, much more gracefully in your life, if you know that you've given help before. (applause)
Mrs. Clinton: Thank you for saying that and for sharing your experience. It is the rare person, in fact, I've never met a person, no matter how privileged, who didn't need help at some time from someone, and I hope that we, in America, remember what you said and apply it in our own lives because there are some today who think that they don't need anything from anybody and life is too uncertain, and one never knows. There, but by the grace of God, could go you with a very sick daughter or a disaster that befalls you and that's what being part of a community is all about, so that when those needs arise there are people who will respond because we have that reciprocal balance that you referred to. We give and when we need to, we take; and it goes like that. Thank you.
President Gearan: Another question, right here in the front.
Ayesha DeMond: Hi, my name is Ayesha and I'm a junior here at William Smith. I think one of the things that we're forgetting is that we have a large athletic base that would be really important to include in community service. For example, we have our football team that has many people that come to our games. If we had the visibility of those people that play in our community to do the work it would be a reciprocal thing, not just ‘Oh, we're coming to your game' that you know, ‘that kid helped me out the other day' or ‘he helped me with my math homework' or things like that.
Mrs. Clinton: Jen or Michael, that's a good point. Have you thought about that?
Jennifer Leshnower: Your point about bringing athletics into service is important because it's something the heroes do. We've taken part in a lot of athletic games, enjoying Hobart football and William Smith field hockey, because it's a fall event. But athletics taught me something when I was in gymnastics because it was concentration and skill but you take that out and apply it to all your experiences. While I'm not an athlete anymore I still apply those same skills and qualities to everything I do and one of that is definitely service.
Michael Harms: I agree with Jen. I think that with any, for example, student organization or student group, any group working together that has some life disconnected from service, the fact that they're working together on whatever issue makes service almost follow naturally, that since a community can work, develop within the group, I think has a lot of potential when it's expanded.
President Gearan: Why don't we do one more question, if we could. Right there, I think.
Ted Murray: Hi, I'm Ted Murray and it's not really a response but I guess it's a retort. I played football for four years here at Hobart and we pushed the Good Neighbors Program down at St. Pete's, and it's a phenomenal program. We feed 80 to 90 kids every Wednesday, and it's an hour and a half of church as well as games and stories. I mean, that plugs in a form of Christianity, religion and I think that's important to give to children, not to say ‘you're condemned', or whatever, but to listen and to tell them there are other people looking out for them and that they're all set.
Mrs. Clinton: You know, I thank you for making that point. You know, I wrote a book called It Takes a Village To Raise A Child. I said in that book something I believe, and that is ‘every child needs somebody who is that child's champion.' For most of us we're lucky enough to have parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles or a brother or a sister. There's somebody in our lives who made us really know that we were really God's child and therefore we were special and we could go out into the world and try to fulfill our obligation, but there are many children for whom that is not the case, and sometimes there's no way to explain why that happens or what the neglect or the absence might be, but if we don't try to respond to help these children, then there's no way that they can get those feelings, that they can be given that kind of direction and spiritual guidance and support that every child requires.
So for me, much of what motivates my sense of service is the belief that every child deserves at least one person in that child's life who really is crazy about that child and cares about that child and really does everything possible. You know, for some people it's a teacher or a coach or a priest or a minister or a neighbor or someone and you may be surprised, but for some of the students here, it's you. It is you. It's you helping that child. Maybe it's never expressed in those terms, maybe no one ever thanks you, but by your reaching out and being part of that child's life you're giving yourself and you're providing that spark of connection and guidance and love that every child needs. I thank you for raising that point and telling us about that particular experience because as far as I'm concerned that's the most important kind of service any of us can give: to be sure that every child has that kind of love and attention and discipline that every child deserves to have.
President Gearan: Great. Thank you Mrs. Clinton. Well, this brings to a close our very first President's Forum. Before we all adjourn, I would like to ask the respective presidents of our student governments, Jessica Thies from the William Smith Congress, and B.J. Parks from the Hobart Student Association to come forward to give Mrs. Clinton a little gift that she will take back with her to go with her scarf. She's going to be a walking billboard for us.
Jessica Thies: Hi, my name is Jessica Thies, and I'm the president of William Smith Congress and on behalf of William Smith College, I'd like to present you with this sweatshirt.
Mrs. Clinton: Thank you.
Jessica Thies: We thank you very much for coming. (applause) It's an honor to have you here.
Mrs. Clinton: Thank you. It's been an honor to be here.
Brian Parks: Hello, my name is Brian Parks, and on behalf of Hobart College, I'd like to present you with a Hobart sweatshirt.
Mrs. Clinton: Thanks. Boy, I'm well outfitted! Thanks. Thank you, thank you very much.
Brian Parks: Thank you for accepting the invitation.
President Gearan: And of course, from some of our Geneva Heroes who are here. Come on up, some of our friends from the community. We want to leave you with a sense of one of the important programs here of service, Geneva Heroes.
Mrs. Clinton: While they're doing that, I asked Michael about this T-shirt earlier. You probably can't read it, those of you who've never seen it before but it says "Celebrate Service. Celebrate Geneva, 1999, and it has 340 jumping jacks, 8,679 hot dogs" What does that mean?
Michael Harms: Celebrate Service, Celebrate Geneva is one of our big events at the end of the year and some people refer to it as the Day of Service, but I think it's much more than that. It's a celebration of all the service that happened and all the service that's to come. We gather on the quad on a Saturday morning.
Mrs. Clinton: And you do jumping jacks?
Michael Harms: And we do jumping jacks. At the end of April and we do jumping jacks and then head out to 40 different community sites to do service and these are some of the exciting accomplishments of that project.
Mrs. Clinton: And who keeps track of the jumping jacks and the hot dogs?
Michael Harms: We have careful counters.
President Gearan: Well, with that new house in Chappaqua, you now have a few things for the closets to put in. Our next speaker in the President's Forum will be on January 26, where Father Robert Drinan, a Professor of Law at Georgetown Law School will be here for the day, speaking in classrooms, in our classes on legal ethics, meeting with our pre-law students and in the evening, delivery remarks on International Human Rights. January 26. Later we will have a session on the Irish Peace Process, with Congressman Jim Walsh from Syracuse, and Niall O'Dowd, from Irish America Publication. Speaking about that, and it will be particularly interesting for our students who've returned from Galway from the fall. Later, schedule will get out to you, PBS author and journalist, Hugh Hewitt will be here to continue these forum discussions. So with our thanks for your attendance today, and for the particular privilege of having Mrs. Clinton here, thank you all for coming.
Panel Discussion with Hillary Rodham Clinton, President's Forum
Jan. 11, 2000
Moderated by Michael Harms, Jennifer Leshnower, and President Mark Gearan
Additional speakers included:
Professor Ann Oaks
Professor Craig Rimmerman