“New York's strength has been rooted in the fact that it is a place where common people have risen to achieve uncommon greatness,” said Silda Wall Spitzer, First Lady of New York, in her talk as a guest of the President's Forum Series on Wednesday, March 5 in the Geneva Room.
After the introduction by President Mark D. Gearan, Spitzer began her talk, “The Role of Service in Fostering Community and Economic Revitalization in New York State,” outlining the progressive history of New York, citing instances of New Yorkers initiating change in racial, sexual identity- and gender-related and contexts, including Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell.
Spitzer then detailed some plans of the state government to continue to advance and improve all aspects of New York life: education, job creation, living conditions and cultural opportunities among them. Part of that plan is to increase volunteerism. Service creates a connection between the individual people and the community in which they live, she stressed.
New York has defied expectations, Spitzer said. The country and the state have “roots in service that extend back to the pioneers” and service and activism have been defining factors of the state's legacy. “Our current rights,” she said, “are products of volunteers.”
Despite the dissatisfaction with Congress and the national government, service and civic engagement across the country is increasing. Nearly 84 million Americans volunteered last year, which, Spitzer said, communicates two things: “People really believe they can make a difference in shaping and contributing to society through service. And we cannot rely on government alone to fix our problems.”
Service and activism, while at an all-time high since the 1970s, are lacking in the state of New York, and Spitzer called on her audience to serve, mentioning the connections among volunteering, historic legacy, communities, the economy and the future, as well as benefits for the individual.
Volunteers who start at a young age, she said, have been shown statistically to be more apt to continue as they get older; they have better grades in school, better health and are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors.
“It's part of the educational puzzle,” she said. “I look forward to your partnership in building volunteering and service in our great state, to help rebuild our communities, restore our economy and revitalize our state.”
“People who serve,” Spitzer said, “learn that they have the power to change the world.”
The President's Forum Series continues at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 10 in the Geneva Room, when Adam Nagourney, national political correspondent for The New York Times, offers an insider's thoughts and reflections on the race for the White House.
A story on Spitzer's visit was broadcast Thursday, March 6 on R News; read State's first lady stressed involvement
A front-page story on her talk appeared in the Finger Lakes Times of Thursday, March 6; read State's first lady stumps for volunteerism at HWS