Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Goodbye to the Gipper

This article, written in 2004, appeared in the Lake Norman Chamber newsletter.

 Last month, June, marked an anniversary in my life.  It was a dozen years ago that a small town boy from Rock Hill, South Carolina was elected president of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).  Many of you are probably familiar with the Jaycees.  However, for those of you who may not be – the Junior Chamber is a civic organization for young people in more than 100 countries with 200,000 members worldwide in 6,000 communities.

 In 1992, I was elected National President in Portland, Oregon.  It was a closely contested election running against a Jaycee from Arkansas and another from North Carolina.  While the election was a moment to remember, perhaps my real thrill was meeting the keynote speaker of the convention that year – Ronald Wilson Reagan.  While Reagan was four years removed from office, he still carried the confidence and charisma that people remembered fondly last month.reagan00011

As the incoming national president, I had the opportunity to meet with him firsthand, sharing lunch in a very informal setting.  Reagan captivated our group with stories and anecdotes of his days in the movies and in public office.

In our encounter, he retold a story I’m sure he used on many occasions about the farmer and the attorney.  As his story went, a farmer in an old pickup truck and an attorney in his sports car collided on a back country road.  Immediately after the collision, the farmer leaped from the truck and asked how the attorney felt.  The attorney, woozy from the collision, was a bit shaken.  So the farmer reached behind the seat of his truck and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.

 “Here, take a swig of this, it’ll make you feel better,” said the farmer.  The attorney agreed he felt a bit better.  The farmer encouraged another sip, and then another, until the attorney felt pretty darn good.  The attorney, feeling pretty spry now, thanked the farmer for his kindness and inquired if he wanted the last little bit from the bottle.  The farmer, with a grin on his face, said, “Nah…I’ll wait till after the state trooper arrives.”

The ancient Greeks believed that character was formed in part by fate and in part by parental training, and that character was exemplified not only by acts of bravery in battle but in the habits of daily conduct.  In our brief meeting I was captured by Reagan’s charisma.  His optimism, drive, and spirit made a profound impact on me as I began my year as national president.  Our theme “Wake Up America!” encouraged young people to get involved in their communities – take part in the political debate regardless of their partisan affiliation.

Last month, Reagan’s death hung heavy on my heart.  I felt like I was reliving the death of my grandfather who shaped so many of my views and beliefs.  Both were men of character, simple and down to earth men, who seemed to understand themselves and focused on their objectives.  They were men of character from a time when character was held in higher esteem than it seems to be today.  A time when character was king.  There will be debate about Reagan’s legacy.  Some will praise him and others will say he fell short. 

I know how he made me feel about my community and my country.  And that’s his legacy to me.  Thank you Gipper.
Addressing the U.S. Junior Chamber 1992

Addressing the U.S. Junior Chamber 1992

Advertisements

March 26, 2009 - Posted by | Politics | , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: