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Taking The Lead

Taking The LeadIn an op-ed published in The Boston Globe, Rob Hollister, dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, says that students are more energized now than ever to become active citizens.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.04.06] "Together We Can." During his successful run for office, Massachusetts Governor-elect Deval Patrick campaigned with that slogan, inspiring his supporters and emphasizing his vision of a collaborative approach to governing. The motto seems to have struck a chord. As Rob Hollister, dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts, explained in a Boston Globe op-ed, the public’s interest in civic service is once again on the rise. This energy, he says, could lay the groundwork for an exciting new era of active citizenship driven by student engagement.

"Patrick tapped into a reservoir of latent idealism and a public yearning to reach beyond the limits of our self-interest and to look after one another," Hollister wrote.

Young people in particular, he added, are seeking opportunities for engagement.

"A big myth is that young people are mostly cynical, apathetic, and disengaged from public life," wrote Hollister. "But their innate idealism is huge and as a society we continue to underestimate their burning desire to make a positive difference with their lives."

Government can work as a partner to this end, he explained.

"They don't think government alone can solve community problems," Hollister wrote of students. "They want a state government that facilitates and supports voluntary citizen action, not one that treats it as a substitute for public investment."

Students, he added, are getting involved.

"College students are showing they understand that government is more effective when it engages the full power of individuals and groups to take on and to solve public problems," Hollister wrote. Among college students in Massachusetts, Hollister added, "we are seeing an activism that has been dormant for decades.”

Hollister cited a growing number of schools that, like Tufts, have made active citizenship a core component of the student experience. He also pointed to organizations like Campus Compact, which joins more than five million students from more than 1,000 colleges and universities in a dedication to civic engagement on campus. The Massachusetts arm of Campus Compact is headquartered at Tufts.

This growing commitment comes not only from an "urgent need for more effective community leaders," Hollister wrote, but also because "increasing numbers of college students expect community service to be part of their college experience."

These highly engaged students, he added, are poised to become the driving force for change in the cities and towns of Massachusetts.

"Our communities are desperate for our collective engagement," wrote Hollister. "If we're smart, we will learn from our students and follow their lead."

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