Volunteerism
Peter Lynch, Regis 2012

It is an honor to be here today to speak to the graduates of Regis, and I am so delighted with the honorary degree my wife, Carolyn, is receiving from this fine college.

There were over 100 million Americans doing formal volunteer work in year 2011, or an average of 2 hours a week. 14% of adults do over 5 hours a week of volunteer work -- and half of them have done it for over five years. 56% of all adults do some volunteering each year. There were over 10 billion hours of volunteer work completed in 2011, or the equivalent of 6 million full-time employees. Being a volunteer is not an important factor at all in Europe or other parts of the developed world. Rarely or never do you hear about this loving and caring side of Americans on 60-Minutes or on 20-20.

We hear constant criticism of America's youth as uncaring, spoiled, and selfish. It is easy to remember my level of community service and volunteer work I did in college and graduate school. It was grand total of zero hours. I did not do any charity work until I was over thirty. I also don't remember any of my friends and associates in college and graduate school doing volunteerism.

Today, over forty years after I finished graduate school, students in college and adults, are all more socially aware, and are responding to the problems we confront as a country. These tens of millions of individuals are receiving no compensation or awards in the media but they do it for the smiles they see on the faces of recipients and results they see achieved through their efforts.

I feel disappointed that this great level of volunteerism is being achieved in spite of the business community. With a few exceptions, community service is not greatly encouraged or fostered by small business or large corporations. People who do volunteer work have a substantially less absenteeism rate and exhibit greater loyalty to their companies. If companies gave recognition awards, used their resources to help organize and facilitate volunteer work, and allowed time-off with pay for community service, everyone would win, including the businesses. I hope this is something that you will strive to achieve as you enter the professional world. If everyone simply followed in only a minor way the example of you graduates of Regis College, we would substantially expand volunteerism.

At Regis over 70% of the student population have participated in community service work, an average of 1.5 hours a week. This is one of the highest percentages I’ve ever heard. Congratulations – what an achievement! There are dozens of programs that undergraduate and graduate students participate in at Regis College. The ones with the most involvement are the Bethany Hill School, Cradles to Crayons, Casserly House, Rosie’s Place and Habitat for Humanity. Two remarkable volunteer programs that have been going on during your years here at Regis are the school break trip to Mississippi and also other volunteer groups going to Peru. Another program that has huge potential is the effort to upgrade the nursing faculty and nursing practices in the country of Haiti.

I want to praise both the College and the students of Regis for their achievements in volunteerism. I believe it is an outcome of the dictum and outgrowth of the primary messages of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and that is “to serve the dear neighbor”.

I appreciate how hard you have all worked to reach graduation and the sacrifices you and your families have made. I know you have the talent, the skills, and the education to really enjoy the rest of your life. Please remember to keep up your interest as volunteers, it makes a huge difference, and it is very enjoyable and fulfilling.

Thank you and best wishes.

Regis College Commencement 2012: Volunteerism