Mark Gearan Calls for Service, engaged constituency
Mark Gearan, president of Hobart & William Smith Colleges and former director of the U.S. Peace Corps, spoke at Cornell University in a speech titled, “Public Service in the 21st Century.” Gearan was invited to Cornell as a part of the 2006-07 Colloquium Series presented by The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs.
Gearan asked those in the audience who are thinking about international development to look into becoming involved with the Peace Corps. “Allow me this commercial,” said Gearan, “to encourage you to think about the [U.S.] Peace Corps service.” Gearan said the satisfaction experienced by Peace Corps volunteers is nothing less than significant. Peace Corps volunteers make a 27 month commitment to the Corps. He conveyed that 9 out of 10 volunteers surveyed while working in the field would choose to volunteer again, while the same ratio of volunteers would recommend the experience to others.
Gearan defined the term “public service” as being comprised of two parts: “community service and volunteerism aspect and a public service aspect” in regards to public service with federal and state governments. “When we look back at our past as Americans, there has been an ethic of service since our founding,” said Gearan. “From minutemen, to thee early founding fathers [who established] our country in the deep routes of freedom, to Alexis de Tocqueville who was struck by the efforts of [early American] ‘joiners,’ those getting involved in their communities and meeting houses, we have [historically] fostered this sense of volunteerism during times of crisis, war and peace,” said Gearan.
Gearan expressed concern regarding the importance of volunteerism as reflected by U.S. government spending. Each year, numerous applicants are turned away by the Peace Corps because the Corps simply cannot afford to fund enough projects. “Why has the most fortunate country in the world said ‘no’ to these volunteers?” asked Gearan. “We spend more on our military marching band than on the Peace Corps. Not my priority.”
When the room opened up for questions, an AmeriCorps alumna raised concern over the budget cuts of both the Peace Corp and AmeriCorps. “Funding is being slightly shaved off every year,” said Gearan. Because there is no one really fighting against it, there is also no one strongly fighting for it. “Without an engaged constituency [the Corps] suffers.” Read more.
More about Mark Gearan
President Gearan’s appointment to Hobart and William Smith in 1999 made him one of the nation’s youngest college presidents. In the course of his tenure, he has reinforced the Colleges’ commitment to global understanding and study abroad opportunities, community service and service-learning, with the goal of providing these elements through contemporary facilities and state-of-the-art technology.
When named president, Gearan was serving as director of the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., a post he assumed in 1995. Under his leadership, the Peace Corps experienced a resurgence of interest. The Colleges also have progressed under his guidance. Prior to his Peace Corps directorship, President Gearan served at the White House as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications, as well as Deputy Chief of Staff during the Clinton administration. During the 1992 presidential campaign, he was Al Gore’s campaign manager, segueing to the position of Deputy Director of President-elect Clinton’s transition team.
President Gearan serves on the boards of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which operates the community-based service programs AmeriCorps and ServiceCorps; and The Partnership of Public Service, a group aimed at encouraging young people to pursue federal service careers. Additionally, he served as chair of the National Campus Compact and he is also a member of the Independent College Fund of New York. Read more.