Mark D. Gearan ’78, President of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges, returned to his alma mater on Tuesday to discuss public service and his experiences in service and politics in the Winthrop House Senior Common room.
Gearan, a former Peace Corps Director and White House Deputy Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton, began the discussion by addressing members of the millennial generation in the audience.
“From my perspective, your generation is the most civically-engaged and volunteer-minded since the greatest generation, without question,” Gearan said.
However, he also noted a paradox within public service. He said that he believes members of the millennial generation have a strong interest in service and making a difference in their communities, but a few wants to do so by entering government service. Gearan stressed that, in order to make a difference, the country needs civic-minded people interested in running for office.
“There’s a great interest in service, a great interest in making a difference,’ he said. “But how do we insure that people are thinking about this in terms of government?”
Gearan also discussed the challenges that young people encounter when they attempt to get involved in public service: in particular, money.
“Sadly, for anyone thinking about running for office, the resources required are difficult to attain,” he said.
“It’s a significant problem...an insidious cycle for anyone starting and tough for anyone once they are serving.”
Gearan also detailed the disfunctionality in government that arises from extreme partisanship, which further prevents any action from being taken in politics on issues that liberals and conservatives greatly disagree on.
Tianhao He ’16, who is working as a research assistant at the Harvard Kennedy School, said he enjoyed Gearan’s discussion.
“I really appreciated hearing Mark Gearan’s perspective on the potential for young people to get involved in public service,” He said.
He added that it is inspiring to think about how people can build a national movement on public service.
Gearan’s daughter, Madeleine H. Gearan ’15, also shared her persepective on her father’s work.
“My dad has had a long career in public life and politics,” she said.
“Growing up as the daughter of someone who’s committed his entire life to public service has been such a great privilege.”