‘It’s about the fire in the belly,
something you do because
you believe you have to.
When you listen to this compulsion
it makes it possible to take action
that is otherwise easily neglected.’
John Fiske, ’58

At Class Day 1958, Yale professor Paul Weiss told the assembled men that they were inheriting a miserable world and admonished them to “go out and make it a better place”. In June of this year, remaining graduates marked their 60th reunion with a collective account of their various and varied days of service. The world has changed since June 1958. Yet the challenge then remains true today – How do we “give back” through who we are in the world and the choices we make each day?

Overview of the Evening:
Current YCL members read excerpts from Volunteering: Personal Stories of Commitment from 130 Octogenarians and proceeded to a panel discussion chaired by YCL member Tom Swidler (YC ’58), who helped edit the ‘personal stories of commitment from 130 octogenarians’ into a book for their 60th reunion, and Rachel Littman (YC ’91), Chair of Chapters for Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance (YANA). The panelists — Anant Jani, Kamilla Arku, Rachel Littman, Thomas Swidler — shared their original motivations for volunteering, the scope of their volunteering and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

They discussed ways in which volunteering can build communities, especially for us global nomads and expats. Volunteering also develops a sense of continuity for people and opportunities to explore local contexts for global issues. You can bring what you’ve learned as a volunteer from one place to a new place. Panelists stressed the value of being physically present and listening for what really matters to people and what they’ve set as their own goals. They all echoed a panelist’s comment that volunteering increases a sense of creativity through responding to encounters with people who may not share our language, point of view or life experience.

Volunteering breaks us out of our silos, gets us talking to our neighbors and challenges us to take our civic duty beyond sorting the recycling.



For more info, contact Margaret Glover