Executive Director of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation Steven Rothstein recently joined the HWS President’s Forum Series to examine the 35th U.S. president’s instrumental role in shaping contemporary public service with the establishment of the Peace Corps.
“You are the embodiment of John F. Kennedy’s legacy,” said Rothstein, who joined the March 22 discussion via video chat, discussing Kennedy vision for the Peace Corps as well as the Colleges’ significant efforts around service. “Clearly his work on service is more relevant today than ever before. But when you think about big ideas, when people come up with big ideas, people call it a ‘moonshot.’ A cancer moonshot or a corporate moonshot. Kennedy literally brought us the first moonshot.”
The Colleges’ commitment to public service and global citizenship has long been in the national spotlight, including the recent announcement by the Peace Corps that HWS rank fourth among small schools on the agency’s 2017 list of Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities.
Moderated by President Mark D. Gearan, who served as director of the Peace Corps from 1995 to 1999, the March 22 President’s Forum included a broader panel discussion featuring several guests who reflected on the personal and global impacts of public service through efforts such as the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.
Panelists included: Katie Flowers, director of the HWS Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning and former AmeriCorps VISTA member who served in Worcester, Mass.; Professor of Economics Alan Frishman, who served the Peace Corps in Nigeria; Kim Aliperti, co-owner of Billsboro Winery and former chair of the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva who served the Peace Corps in Tunisia; Glenn Cerosaletti, assistant dean of students at the University of Rochester who served in the Peace Corps in Bolivia and the AmeriCorps in Wyoming; and Anne Tatarsky, the western New York recruiter for the Peace Corps who served in the Dominican Republic; and Clifford Chan, former director of Volunteers in Asia who completed public service at Hong Kong refugee camps.
Rothstein’s President’s Forum address was one of a series of discussions being held across the country to delve into key themes of his presidency using the centennial of Kennedy’s birth as a springboard for conversation.
“Hobart and William Smith were very honored by the invitation of the Kennedy Library to host this and to welcome its exceedingly able leader Steven Rothstein,” Gearan said. “He comes with a rich perspective, especially to this campus, especially to our students, staff, faculty and Geneva neighbors as a very skilled nonprofit administrator, social entrepreneur and public servant. We hope people have left here with a sense of the power of an idea.”
The event, which took place in the Geneva Room, also included a question-and-answer sessions with the panelists.
“In this global world we are so much more interconnected, being able to live in another country and experience life in the footsteps of someone else and then bring that information home with others who haven’t had that opportunity can really open our eyes,” said Tartasky, who frequently joins the campus community to discuss her work with the Peace Corps.
Since the Peace Corps’ founding in 1961, 219 alums from HWS have traveled abroad to serve as volunteers, including 12 alums currently volunteering.
“I believe that Peace Corps volunteers have a really positive impact wherever they are,” said Frishman, who recently reunited with former students he taught during his Corps service to find that one had become the governor of the Nigerian state Kano. “You don’t really know what the impact is. You have to wait 30, 40 or 50 years to see what the impact is, but in many cases, they have done some incredible things to help their country in all kinds of ways.”
Since its establishment in the winter of 2000, the President’s Forum Series has brought to campus a variety of important politicians, intellectuals, and social activists, to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty, staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members — promoting the free flow and exchange of ideas.