Lula Bell

Lula hiding from the camera - Garden City Beach trip 1975
Lula hiding from the camera - Garden City Beach trip 1975

Recently I was going through old family photographs when I stumbled upon a picture of a lady who used to help my mom, and before that, my grandmother with their housekeeping.  To say she was merely a housekeeper would be completely disingenuous.  When my aunt was a little girl, an African American lady named Lula Bell Wilson helped my Grandmother Russell around the house and kept my Aunt Terry until my grandparents arrived back home from work.

When I was three years old, I was by all accounts a precocious little tyke.  There is a good reason why my mom waited seven years to have another child.  My mom was almost a nervous wreck when my grandmother suggested strong reinforcements in the guise of Lula Bell.  Mama has always told me I had a difficult time pronouncing Lula’s name and instead called her “Wuda Bell.”  For the next six years, Lula kept me during the day while Mom and Dad were at work.  While I’m sure that many of the values and beliefs that I cherish today were no doubt passed on to me by my parents, I have no doubt that Lula herself also had a profound impact in shaping my world.

While I sometimes have difficulty remembering what I did last week, I can recall with clarity sitting out in the back yard with bologna sandwiches Lula had made us or walks up to the ice cream shop, roughly a mile round trip from our house on Carey Drive.  Mom said Lula would often pay for the ice cream cones out of her own pocket.  I was after all – her little boy.    I suppose it’s because of the time I spent with Lula that I’ve always had such difficulty seeing the contrast between black and white.  The differences between races, between those who have and those who have not have always been blurred for me.

Exchanging gifts with JCI Japan National President - 1993
Exchanging gifts with JCI Japan National President - 1993

In 1994, I had the chance to attend the Junior Chamber International Japan  Academy with students from approximately 80 countries. Over the next two years I would serve Junior Chamber International as General Legal Counsel and then Treasurer, traveling into Japan, Korea, Central America, and Eastern Europe.  It was a rewarding experience sharing ideas and appreciating the diversity and customs of other cultures.

This month the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce launches the first of its Women and Minority Business Development programs.  This is an opportunity to engage the diverse population that makes up our region.  Our hope is to create programs that strengthen us as a region, to open doors of opportunity, and provide resources for our citizens to help them reach their potential.  After all, we are at our best when we help others achieve their dreams. 

This past Sunday, I traveled to Rock Hill to help my dad on the farm.  On the way back to Huntersville, I drove to our old home where I grew up as a child.  I parked the car and looked at the little house on Carey Drive.  I stood in the drizzling rain peering into the back yard, beyond the little fence, where Lula and I would sit and eat our sandwiches.    I can still hear her laughing at my many antics.  She would put her hand to her face and laugh with a sparkle in her eye.  To me Lula wasn’t a black woman or a white woman, she wasn’t well off or poor  – she was my Lula and I was her little boy.  While she has passed on now, her laughter still warms my soul.  The days we spent together, four decades later, are etched in the memories of my mind and through the eyes of a young boy I remember.


The Asoh Defense – Speak the Truth

This past January, an airbus 320, flown by USAir Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, ditched his plane in the waters off the Hudson River on a flight bound for Charlotte, NC.  There were no serious injuries to the 155 aboard.

Shiga-overviewNow, almost forgotten is a similar flight that occurred November 22, 1968.  It’s been more than forty years since Captain Kohie Asoh, the Japan Air Lines Pilot, landed his DC-8 jet with 96 passengers and 11 crew members, two and a half miles out in the San Francisco Bay but in nearly exact compass line with the runway.  Captain Asoh landed the jet so gently that many of the passengers were unaware they were in the water until a sailboat appeared on the port bow.  No one was hurt.  No one was bruised.  No one even got their feet wet when passengers were taken off in inflatable rafts.  While the jet itself was not damaged.  It had to be salvaged before the corrosive salt took its toil.  Regardless of how competently he piloted the jet, a veteran pilot with over 10,000 hours, the fact that he landed the plane 2 ½ miles in the bay upset more than a few people.

Shortly thereafter, the National Transportation Safety Board held a hearing to determine the guilt for the deed.  Attorneys and the media scrambled to San Francisco representing their clients.  When Asoh took the stand, the investigator asked, “Captain Asoh, can you explain in your own words how you managed to land that DC-8 jet 2 ½ miles out in San Francisco Bay in perfect compass line with the runway?”  Asoh’s reply was. “As you Americans say, Asoh screwed up!”  Actually his comment was a bit more colorful, but I’m trying not to offend here.

According to the story, all that could be said was in that brief reply and the judge adjourned the hearing.  Apparently Asoh was not aware of the American philosophy of never apologize…never take blame…never explain.  We live in a business society which does not approve of failure.  How many times have military officers been passed over for promotion because of a single blemish on their record.  I’m not speaking of repeated mistakes, just an honest error or failed attempt.

Would Richard Nixon have resigned if he had appeared before the American People and fessed up to the Watergate break-in?  Would the Challenger 225px-Richard_Nixonaccident have occurred if the problem with the “O” rings had not been covered up?  The good news is many companies, particularly small businesses are practicing “Grace – the ability to forgive an error.”  Some companies are expunging records after a certain lapse of time.

The business community must provide a routine to wipe the slate clean periodically, removing adverse personnel actions from employee files.  Employees should be encouraged to acknowledge mistakes, to correct them before it significantly hampers the future efficiency of the business or organization.

Captain Asoh had the courage to assume responsibility for his own actions.  He didn’t blame others for his mistakes.  More than four decades later we need to learn from Captain Asoh, who by the way continued to fly for Japan Airlines without further incident until his retirement.  Innovation does not come from doing the same thing over and over again.  Innovation will be met with mistakes, errors, and failed attempts,  But it is through that process that we grow and learn.  I say set your goals high and shoot for the stars.  That way if you only reach the sky you’ve left the ground and cleared the treetops!

Poems – Bill Russell

The Old Man

The old man sits in a booth by day
drinking his whiskey dry

He waits for another chance to say
give me my peace before I die

A face weathered by days spent alone
nights spent waiting by the phone

and all that has happened
and all that has passed

the old man waits
and the old man is gone.


I don’t know

I don’t know if it’s sunny or blue
I don’t know if I’m starting or through
All I know is nothing is true.


Left Alone

Silence creeps like a thief in the night
chasing the darkness from the light
shadows on the arms which held you tight
left untouched

Pictures of people I no longer know
captured moments from a long time ago
frozen memories I dare not show
left forgotten

Tears still stain the sheets on our bed
Old tattered letters I’ve often read
Items in a box from the day we wed
left behind

Now  I sit here out of sight
secluded in the shadows of the night
scotch colored memories dim the light
left alone

Creating Raving Fans

Raving Fans1Remember the good old days when you could pull your car into a service station and an attendant would not only fill up your car, but check your oil, tires, brake fluid and even clean your windshield?  Not long ago, I pulled into a service station that said “Self-serve” on the sign.  Just out of curiosity, I asked the manager inside if there was a choice.  It took a while for him to look up from his clip board, but when he did he looked at me like I was from Mars.  Several years ago, I read a book that I recently read again entitled Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.  In the book, Blanchard tells the story of a sales manager who is counseled on the three most important tips in creating raving fans.  In a nutshell, to create raving fans of your business you must first identify what you want to achieve.  You must determine what the customer desires and then deliver more than they expected.  Sounds like common sense but too often businesses fail in that task.

I was raised in Rock Hill, S.C. and a fixture in that city for many years was a

A Texaco Full Service Station Circa 1955
A Texaco Full Service Station Circa 1955

Texaco station located on Main Street.  David Wylie operated the station with his wife Mable.  My father was an insurance agent for First Insurance Agency and wrote Mr. Wylie’s policy when a direct writer would not insure the station.  I can recall once having a problem with my car, and at the suggestion of dad, took the automobile to David’s station for repair.  David’s repairman had it running in no time and little by little I continued to patronize Wylie’s Texaco for gas and service.

Wylie Texaco Station Today
Wylie Texaco Station Today

David Wylie had several attendants who would hurry out to your car, put in the amount of gas you needed, check under the hood for all the fluids, and clean your windows.  They also engaged you in conversation and truly seemed interested in how your day was going.  On the occasion his attendants were busy with other cars or a new driver would pull up, Mr. Wylie, pipe clenched tightly between his teeth, would stride out to the island and began attending to their needs.  He never failed to ask about the family or how the day was going.  I always felt Mr. Wylie cared about his customers.  His station was older than most and his pumps worked a great deal slower.  But David never lost a customer because he and his staff always went that extra mile and gave just a little more than was expected.

Mr. Wylie retired from the service station scene years ago.  Today, the station still sits there.  The gas pumps have been removed but a garage still operates in the old building.  Occasionally I will drive by the old place on my way into Downtown Rock Hill.  Driving past, I imagine I see Mr. Wylie peering through the plate glass windows of the station, drawing on the pipe, overseeing his employees, going the extra mile to take care of his … raving fans.

Things I can do without!

The Infamous East Tennessee Snail Darter
The Infamous East Tennessee Snail Darter

I just returned home from a regional transportation committee meeting which is about as much fun as watching a PBS documentary on the mating habits of the east Tennessee snail darter.  However, given the choice between the two, Rocky Top could be home sweet home to me.  I admit to being in a somewhat agitated mood as the notions of increased taxes, vehicular fees, and roundabouts do have a tendency to set me off at times.

I’m not real crazy about the roundabouts to begin with and Davidson (NC) has two of them.  My 350Z always gets a little loose going around turn three and I want to automatically pull into that gas station there at exit thirty and get a wedge adjustment before I get to that next roundabout.

To compound my anxiety, I get home and heat up a plate of left over spaghetti and make a salad to find that the salad dressing in the pantry is Thousand Island Low Fat.  Now given I am really the only one who does the grocery shopping around here, I have to assume I purchased said salad dressing.  I can’t blame the shopping on either of my two dearly departed ex-wives.  And, no, for those who don’t know my social history, the wives aren’t deceased they just departed. I know I have poor eye sight these days and I’m quite confident I wouldn’t purchase it on purpose.  I absolutely abhor low fat stuff.  I’ve a notion the Good Lord didn’t intend us to have low fat items or else he, or (she …who really knows) would not have made fattening items taste so good.

I did eat my spaghetti and picked at my salad.  Finally, determining I didn’t really need the salad – much too healthy in the first place.  Now I’m sitting here at my computer frustrated that I wasted however much I paid for the damn Thousand Island when I really don’t intend to eat another spoonful.  Come to think of it –there’s a great many things I really don’t care for.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say not like.  That’s pretty strong language and Lord knows I don’t want to offend said Salad Dressing or the people who purchase the stuff.  But here’s a list of things I could simply do without:

Fat free anything, particularly the offending salad dressing, cookies, ice cream, popsicles, and pudding.  I mean get real – deserts are supposed to have sugar.  It’s like the food law or something.  I also abhor this salt that has no salt taste.  Who thought up salt without the taste?  My mother is cooking with that stuff now.  She raised me on fried foods and gravy.  Today it’s no sugar, salt, fried foods, or caffeine.   Decaffeinated coffee?  Just who drinks brown water?  Makes no sense to me.  While we’re still on the foods: Ketchup based barbecue.  If you cannot fix it eastern or mustard style, just don’t

a Rutabaga
a Rutabaga

bother.  Rutabagas!  I’m not real sure what they are but I know ‘em when I smell ‘em. My mama used to cook those too back when she used salt and sugar.  Hated the things.  I always knew when my dad was out of town because the house smelled of rutabagas.

Enough on the food – ready for this – Democrats west of the Mississippi.  Surprise!  Okay, you got me.  I need to throw in north of the Mason Dixon line too.  There’s a few down south that I can tolerate.  I particularly don’t have much use for the ones from Nevada and California.  I think I’d rather be water boarded or go duck hunting with former Vice President Cheney than spend ten minutes listening to their drivel.

Northern tourists who wear knee high black socks with their sandals at Myrtle Beach.  Holy cow!  Who gave them their fashion sense?  My great great great grandfather William Beauregard Russell spent four years of his life during the war of Northern Aggression trying to protect the beaches of South Carolina from the oppressing Yankee hordes who attempted to walk down Ocean Drive wearing the aforementioned knee high black socks with the sandals.  My great great great granddaddy had two horses and three Red Cross nurses shot out from under him during that late unpleasantness trying to protect the sanctity of our beaches.

Reality shows – Somebody explain to me why anybody would want to spend an hour watching “some other dude sitting on their couch watching TV” in a reality show.  America needs to get a life.  And this Tweeter thing is just as bad.  Listen – I don’t care what you were doing five minutes ago and I really don’t care what you’re doing now.  Just let me know when you’ve changed the face of the world and done something someone else said couldn’t be done to make things better.  Then tell me about it.

Sunrise at South Beach
Sunrise at South Beach

Fortune tellers. Don’t have much use for them either. I remember wandering into a fortune teller’s front parlor down at South Beach in Miami about five years ago.  Her business was between Finnegan’s Pub and the Royal Palm Hotel.  I asked one simple question: what’s the point spread gonna be in the Duke game tonight when they were in the NCAA tournament a few years back.  She wanted me to pay her fifty bucks and read my palm.  I can assure you, the score wasn’t on my palm and fifty bucks was far more than I was gonna win on the bet to begin with.  Really have no use for fortune tellers.

I guess I need to quit whining.  Maybe it all makes sense to someone else.  Me, I’m gonna grab a little Debbie Oatmeal Cookie and a tall glass of whole milk and go to bed. I need the rest.  There’s another transportation meeting tomorrow.

73rd Annual Meeting Presidential Address

73rd Annual Meeting Presidential Address
Presented by W.E. “Bill” Russell, 73rd President
June 17, 2003  Greensboro, NC

gboro0001Junior Chamber International President Robby Dawkins, Junior Chamber International Vice President Mejia, President elect and First Lady Shapiro, Fellow members of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors, Past National Presidents, Ambassadors, Senators, Fellow Junior Chamber members, and guests:

I could spend my final moments as national president reflecting on the past year: my travels to your states, the training we introduced, the impact we made with the Wake Up America program and our governmental affairs efforts.  However, rather than reflect on the past, I would rather us prepare for the future.

When I was a local officer in the Rock Hill, South Carolina Jaycees in the mid-1980’s, I was an inexperienced Jaycee.  I made the occasional mistakes…but I learned and benefited from it all.  But what I learned early on and what has lasted for me all these years – is the Jaycee Creed.  As simple as those 65 words are, they are the framework that helped me deal with many challenges, especially change.  During this past year as I traveled into 47 states and three different countries, I saw and read some very unsettling things.  Things that the Junior Chamber could change – if we wanted to.

In December, in the Town of Vienna, Va., the newspapers ran a photo of a

National Advisor Madsen, USJCC President Russell, JCI President Dawkins, JCI Advisor Pridgen
National Advisor Madsen, USJCC President Russell, JCI President Dawkins, JCI Advisor Pridgen

group of people held at bay by armed guards.  That may not sound unusual, but these were not rioters or protesters.  They were Christmas Carolers.  You see, the Town of Vienna had outlawed the singing of religious songs on public property.  So the men, women, and children had to sing “Silent Night” behind barricades.  It sounds much like Eastern Europe under communist rule…instead it was America 1991.  There is a cultural war going on in America and the young people are fighting for the conscience of America.  Remember that faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life.

The collapse of the Soviet Union has triggered widespread thinking that the cold war is over – there is no need to do anything else – we’re safe now.  Consider for a moment the past six years, when the Junior Chamber moved behind the iron curtain and began chipping away at the walls of communism through the spread of Jaycees, and paving the way for democracy. I remember the pride I felt when I saw JCI World President Dawkins on the cover of Jaycees Magazine with the Kremlin hauntingly in the background.  Starting new Junior Chamber chapters in Russia, Estonia, and now Vietnam – new pockets of democracy.  We actively pursued friendships and cultivated relationships.  The brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations.

We hear so much that’s negative in America today.  We hear things like our economy is weak, our standard of living is low, America’s people don’t want to work.  There are indeed examples of that in every town and city of America.  But we are short sighted if we let the nay-sayers convince us that America is worse off than it’s ever been.  While there is no question there are pressing national challenges that need to be solved – we shouldn’t be sidetracked by issues that certainly do not do anything to help this nation.  Our future as a country requires us to choose issues that surpass symbolism and move toward the heart of addressing today’s foreign and domestic challenges with speed and accuracy.

I encourage you to go home this week and look closely at the real numbers behind the economy.  I think you will see that critics are off base about America’s premier status in the world. We are a nation who even at our lowest end of the economic scale – work harder and are better off than any other industrialized nation in the world.  Period.  That’s not just my opinion – it’s a fact!  You know it as economic justice – which we believe can best be won by free men through free enterprise.

world-congressAn area of the Junior Chamber whose potential largely remains untapped is our international affairs.  Not one major city in America is without an international company operating and employing the people of that community.  The barriers of the world are opening and today’s world is becoming a global village.  The world’s challenges are very simply – our challenges.  Our Jaycee chapters need to become involved in international affairs, creating bonds with chapters from throughout the world – sharing cultural and business knowledge.  The future of this organization lies in its ability to offer young people the opportunities of the world.

United States Jaycees, the challenges which face us are not unsolvable.  But unless we have the courage to meet them head on, our hesitation could seal our fate.  Traveling around the country this year, some people asked, “What’s wrong with the Junior Chamber?  Why are we losing members every year?”  There are no simple answers and some of you may not agree with some of the things I’m about to say, but I feel compelled to say them.  First off – there is nothing wrong with the Jaycees.  The fault is not in the product – the faults are in the delivery of the product.

Each year, we send young people out to serve in leadership capacities: state presents and vice presidents, regional and district directors, local chapter officers who are unprepared for the role they play.  They have the commitment, courage and desire – but they lack the knowledge and experience.  I believe we should require our officers to meet certain criteria for office.  I believe we should require state presidents to have been vice presidents.  State vice presidents should have been regional or district directors and they in turn should have been local presidents.  Some of our states might find it difficult to fill leadership roles for a while, but I believe it is a disservice to both the chapters and the officer to send them out there unprepared.  Pinning a name badge on a shirt just for the sake of filling the position does more harm than good.

Each year we start new Junior Chamber chapters in communities with the only criteria being twenty filled out applications and money to cover the dues for the twenty people.  The chapter does not have to run projects.  It doesn’t have to teach personal and leadership skills.  It doesn’t even have to conduct regular meetings.  I believe this is wrong.  I think we should bring back the affiliation process which would require chapters to meet certain criteria before a charter is granted.  The chapter should create a chapter plan, run community projects, conduct orientations, and initiate quality programming which are going to make young people the business and community leaders of tomorrow.  These activities could be monitored by the state organization.

One of the weaknesses we incur is we recruit people every day, telling them that the organization is inexpensive – only $45 a year, you don’t have to attend the meetings, you don’t have to participate in the projects and programming, as a matter of fact you don’t have to do anything – and then the member lives up to those expectations.  They become the member we asked them to be.  I believe you should collect their membership application and check but before they become a member, they must attend an orientation, a meeting, and a project.  If they are unable because of evening classes or work commitments, exceptions can be made.  This type of membership activity would ensure that people who never intended to be active, who never knew they joined in the first place, or paper members signed for personal gains never appear on our rolls to begin with.

Membership recruitment is vital to our organization.  We must recruit more young people and create new Junior Chamber chapters more zealously than ever before. But we cannot damage our chapters and our credibility by recklessly creating chapters which don’t meet that standard.  As a national organization, we must examine the measurement system by which we judge our state organizations – the Parade of States.

It is a system which recognizes one winner and forty-nine losers.  It is a system which rewards short term performance.  It is a system which condones a live for today attitude, no matter of tomorrow’s consequences.  Just a quick look at our top five parade players of the past five years will indicate states which are paying for their moment in the sun.  One state – Vermont – was a top five state just a few years ago, today – we have no state organization in Vermont.  We simply cannot continue to recognize short term success.  President elect Shapiro if you truly want to impact the United States Junior Chamber – dismantle the Parade of States.  Initiate a program which recognizes states which excel in the only awards program which encompasses all areas of Jaycees on a long term basis – our Blue Chip Program.

States which have 20-30% of chapters at Blue Chip can be Blue Chip States;

Outstanding State Presidents
Outstanding State Presidents

States with 30-40% can be Gold; and  States with 40% or higher can be Diamond States.  It’s time we reexamined our measurement systems.  It’s time we stopped condoning reckless and irresponsible membership activity.  Understand clearly Jaycees – membership is people.  And we’re in the people business.  We have a responsibility to give other people an opportunity to be in the Junior Chamber. This organization has been around for 73 years because people have felt strongly enough about it to share it with others.  We must recruit more young people, get more people involved than we did this past year – and we must do it because it’s the right thing to do.  Not because of what we gain by it, but by what we give by doing it!

Henry Kissinger, the former United States Secretary of State, said, “The task of a leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”  In the governmental affairs area – it’s time for the Junior Chamber to have a lobbyist in Washington DC to ensure we’re not overlooked on issues of importance to us.  Let’s go somewhere we have not been.

In the environmental area, let’s show America we’re dedicated to preserving natural resources – but at the same time – communicate clearly that environmental awareness is not more important than human life.  Let’s go somewhere we have not been.

Let’s inject ourselves into the political debate of this country – wholeheartedly and enthusiastically – to represent what young people today think and need. Let’s go somewhere we have not been.

It’s time we rejected the old measurement systems and turned our backs on the status quo and mediocrity.  It’s time to embrace our opportunities.  It’s time to go somewhere we have not been.

Rock Hill Jaycees - The Traveling Animals
Rock Hill Jaycees - The Traveling Animals

United States Jaycees, we’re stronger now than we’ve ever been.  We’ve made it through the hardest part.  We had to break it all down to build it back up.  We leaned on each other when times got tough and we’ve survived so much.

We shared it all this year, you and I.  Thank you for giving Melissa and I this wonderful opportunity.  To the Jaycee Traveling Animals of Rock Hill, we’re coming home.  And to the South Carolina Jaycees – Let’s put the green back on stage.

Good luck Jaycees and may God Bless the United States Junior Chamber.

JOTS Closing Ceremony – July 18, 1992

July Officers Training School Closing Ceremony
8 PM July 18, 1992
Remarks by W.E. “Bill” Russell, 73rd President
United States Junior Chamber of Commerce

jots0001It’s been an exciting JOTS.  Thank each of you for being a part of it.  Now, take the lessons home and share them with your fellow state and local chapter officers.  Let’s turn the dreams into reality.  Thirty-nine years ago, President Dwight David Eisenhower addressed the Junior Chamber Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota – a historic first for our organization.  He realized the unique nature of Jaycees when he said, “Yours is one of our nation’s most distinguished and enterprising organizations.  You are young and responsible people, with impressive careers and achievements already recorded to your credit.  Because you are both young and responsible, you know what is your greatest responsibility of all – Tomorrow.”

Jaycees – I believe in you and I believe in tomorrow – and more importantly, I believe in what we can put into action today.  Three weeks ago in Portland at the 72nd Annual Meeting, the 40th President of the United States Ronald Reagan spoke to our delegates.  I remember the pride I felt sitting out in the audience with you as he spoke these words:  “Jaycees are special because we are committed to one specific task – training young leaders.  Long before it became fashionable, Jaycees were in the business of developing leaders.  The world is changing.  Never before has the need for developing new leadership been so great.  Our nation needs men and women of vision and determination.  We need leaders of honesty and a strong sense of personal values.  As I look at your Jaycee Creed, I see the place from which those leaders will come.  You have the zest for what you do.  You are just what we need more of in this country.  Use your Jaycee beliefs to seek out volunteers and train them.  Build the foundation of America’s Leaders for the next century.”

Reagan went on to tell us to “renew our commitment city by city, person by reagan-20001person, and day by day to make our country and the world a better place to live.”  President Reagan, you have our commitment to restore this nation.  To seek out those volunteers and to build that leadership – and we shall not fail in that task.  It’s time Jaycees.  It’s time to Wake Up the communities of Amarillo, Texas –  Grand Rapids, Michigan, – and Des Moines, Iowa.  It’s time to wake up chapters in Kansas City, Missouri –  Berry, Vermont – and Prescott, Arizona.  It’s time we wake up our communities … our chapters … and our members.  It’s time we Wake Up America. It’s Time.

Music up: Springsteen – Born in the USA

Wake Up America Speech – August – November, 1992

This speech was dleivered to Jaycee Chapters and State Board Meetings between August and October 31st urging Jaycees to get people involved in the politcal debate of the country. It was known as the Wake Up America speech and focused on that program developed in 1992. The Speech was given: Kansas Board Meeting 8/8/92; Missouri Board Meeting 8/15/92; Virginia Boar d Meeting 8/22/92; Florida Board Meeting 8/23/92; California J-Bar (Pomona) Rally 9/7/92; Eastern Institute Meeting New Hampshire 9/12/92; Vermont Chapters 9/13/92; Massachusetts Chapters 9/14/92; Connecticut Chapters 9/15/92; New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island Chapters 9/16/92; Maryland Chapters 9/17/92; Georgia Chapters 9/27/92; Great American Institute Colorado 10/3/92; Nevada Chapters 10/6/92; Mississippi Chapters 10/8-9/92; Dixie Institute Meeting 10/11/92; Hawaii Chapters 10/18-23; Mid America Meeting 10/24/92; Kentucky Chapters 10/25-27/92; Illinois Chapters 10/28-29/92; Indiana Chapters 10/30-31/92

wake0001On the way here today I thought about the kind of talk I could give.  I could speak about the innovative training we introduced at the July Officers Training School (JOTS) in Tulsa, Oklahoma –  Teaching Jaycees about decision making, managing change, team building, and measuring performance.  Teaching young people to be leaders, how to manage their chapters and impact their communities.  I could talk about the creating new chapters like the one ______ was working on in and how neat it is to create a new Junior Chamber chapter in a community that needs one so desperately.

We could talk about the super Jaycee who comes in and does something great at a project or function, who gets more people involved than ever before.  Or the not so active Jaycee who steps in and does something neat.  No matter what topic I thought about, I kept coming back to the challenges we face –  (Insert state),  The United States Junior Chamber…even America itself.  The Jaycees have always faced challenges – we did yesterday and we will tomorrow – and we’ve continued to stand the test of time because our young people felt strongly about what they were doing.

America faces her biggest threat.  Not from a superpower – the cold war is over.  Not from Saddam Hussein though he may continue to be an annoyance.  Our biggest threat is from ourselves.  The Los Angeles riots were not about prejudice – it was about hate.  People of the same race beating and killing each other for the sheer excitement of it.  I read how a seven year old boy shot a six year old girl in the head with a pistol, and after he was apprehended by school authorities, he asked, “Is this going to take long?”

America has a new generation of young people.  Most of us grew up as baby boomers. According to the new literature Association Management distributes, boomers are shoppers because we’ve always had choices.  Boomers exhibit certain values in the workplace and professional societies in which they belong.  They have a high social conscience and a need to develop their personal development and status.  They want to contribute to society.  The new generation after the boomers is called the baby bust.  A majority of these young people grew up in a world catering to every need and an age of exploding technology.  When members of this group were ready to attend college, schools struggling for enrollment sent them postcards telling them they had already been accepted.  Busters claim as heroes not John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, but Bart Simpson and Madonna.

Their theme song is “Don’t worry be happy.”  They grew up in an age of technological miracles.  “Don’t worry about AIDS, science will find a cure in a few years.”  Why be concerned about an oil spill on the Alaskan Coast line?  Science will create an enzyme that breaks it down. For most of us – the inconceivable, an astronaut walking on the moon, is mundane reality to this new generation.  Television has literally brought the globe to their living rooms.

Several weeks ago, I saw an episode of Arsenio Hall.  Comedian Eddie

Hawaii Jaycee Membership Night
Hawaii Jaycee Membership Night

Murphy was a guest that evening.  Arsenio asked Eddie if he was actively supporting a candidate in the upcoming election.  Eddie Murphy, a popular young entertainer and personal role model for some, replied, he wasn’t going to vote.  “It doesn’t matter, what’s going to happen is going to happen.”  His vote didn’t matter.  People are disillusioned with the election process.  Congressmen are misrepresenting their office.  The issues aren’t being elected by the majority

Well it does matter and this year the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce is going to spearhead a drive to register voters, sponsor candidate debates, and get the issues out to the people.  Jaycees are going to be the driving force against voter apathy and if the congress will not represent the will of the people we will elect leaders who do.  It’s time America felt the power of her young people.  This year our organization will launch a program to get young kids involved in our Jaycee activities – it’s called the Junior Jaycees. We need to share with them the values we cherish.  Teach them early to work together in common goals.  Teach them that service to humanity is the best work of life – because – it does matter.  It’s time to Wake Up America!

Our Jaycee chapters will introduce new training techniques to our local chapters which will build the personal and leadership skills young people need to compete in the business world.  Training which will allow our Jaycees to manage their chapters – providing direction and leadership to our communities and nation – because it does matter.  It’s time we Wake Up our Jaycee members!

We have continued to lead the fight against disease, improving the quality of life for our people – and we will continue to fight….an lead.  We will fight the spread of Aids, we will work for a cure for Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, and other afflictions until the need for St. Jude’s and MDA are no longer needed.  We will work toward that end because it does matter – and we’re going to Wake Up the next generation of young people.

Mark Twain said, “Thunder is impressive, but lightning does all the work.”  Your national and state organizations are the thunder spreading the message of the Junior Chamber  – but you are the true lightning piercing through your local communities – striving to be the best of the best.  At our 72nd annual meeting, the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan said, “We must renew our commitment city by city, person by person, day by day to make our country and this world a better place to live.”

I ask you to go out into your communities and implement the Wake Up America program  Register voters, get involved with debates, and discuss the issues with members of your community. This is our chance to Wake Up America!  Challenges have always faced America and the Junior Chamber – but we’ve managed to find the answers.  Our biggest threat remains ourselves – but the answers lie in each of us – and in the middle of our challenges lay our opportunities.

commitment0001Our opportunity to Wake Up this new generation of young people and our own Jaycee members.  And we must renew our commitment chapter by chapter, member by member, day by day to make this organization stronger and our country – a better place to live.

Jaycees – its time.  Our time.  May God bless you and God bless the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Speech given:  Kansas Board Meeting 8/8/92; Missouri Board Meeting 8/15/92; Virginia Board Meeting 8/22/92; Florida Board Meeting 8/23/92; California J-Bar (Pomona) Rally 9/7/92; Eastern Institute Meeting – New Hampshire 9/12/92; Vermont Chapters 9/13/92; Massachusetts Chapters 9/14/92; Connecticut Chapters 9/15/92; New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island Chapters 9/16/92; Maryland Chapters 9/17/92; Georgia Chapters 9/27/92; Great American Institute – Colorado 10/3/92; Nevada Chapters 10/6/92; Mississippi Chapters 10/8-9/92; Dixie Institute Meeting 10/11/92; Hawaii Chapters 10/18-23; Mid America Meeting  10/24/92; Kentucky Chapters 10/25-27/92; Illinois Chapters 10/28-29/92; Indiana Chapters 10/30-31/92

Ten Outstanding Young Americans Speech 1993

This speech was given at the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce Ten Outstanding Young Americans Banquet by Bill Russell, 73rd President on January 15, 1993 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

United States Junior Chamber of Commerce
Ten Outstanding Young Americans Banquet
Address by W.E. “Bill” Russell, 73rd President
January 15, 1993 – Tulsa, Oklahoma

United States Jaycees: How does it feel to grow again as an organization?  In December, I asked you to accept the challenge…to grow as an organization for the first time in two years.  We set a goal of +350 people and asked thirty five states to make their goals a reality.  You answered the challenge and exceeded it with 38 states and a net growth for the organization of +466.  Four states achieved Century Club status with a growth of 100 or more members.  For the first time in a very long time we can say that the Junior Chamber of Commerce grew as an organization.  And you made that happen.  It feels good doesn’t it?

However, our job is far from complete.  Our organization  .. this nation needs us more than ever before.  America’s young people are the bread and butter of this country.  Our TOYA honorees are a testament to that fact.  We are the people – 21 to 39 – who are making America work.  We are the car buyers, the house builders, the tax payers.  We are the leaders in training.  We are the down payment on the future of this country.  Think for a moment what this country would not have it were not for the Junior Chamber.  We would not have many of the community parks for our children to play in; we would not have many of this country’s soup kitchens.

We would not have trained leaders like Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George

Marc Buoniconti 1993 TOYA Honoree
Marc Buoniconti 1993 TOYA Honoree

 Bush, and Bill Clinton – all of which were Jaycees.  Dominos Pizza, started by former Jaycee Tom Monaghan,  might not exist today.  There would not have been a Flight of the Spirit of St. Louis, sponsored by Jaycee Charles Lindbergh and the St. Louis Junior Chamber of Commerce.  There would not be Junior Chamber Chapters in 109 countries and we would not be honoring this weekend some of the best and brightest young people in America.

We are an important demographic of people in this country and its time young people had a voice in their future.  The AARP lobbies for the rights of seniors.  Now it is time young people have an organization to lobby for us in terms of health care, legal reform, education, and the environment.  And that organization is the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.  We’re on a roll and we’re ready to rock.

We can do whatever we choose to do.  You have proven that during the past 73 years.  We are coming into Junior Chamber Week across America.  It is time to reflect on the past and prepare for the future.  During the summer, I like many of you watched the Summer Olympics.  I will never forget the 400 meters semi-final race of the Barcelona games.  Britain’s Derek Redmond was in the backstretch some 200 meters from the end when he collapsed on the track with a torn right ham string. 

The crowd looked on in disbelief.  Injuries are, of course, common in Olympic Games where men and women are performing at their peak.  What the crowd saw on this day was quite uncommon.  They saw Olympic valor and raw determination.  As medical attendants were approaching, Redmond fought to his feet pushing the Olympic trainers to the side.  Later he would say, “It was out of animal instinct.”  With tears of pain streaming down his face, he set out in a quest to finish the race he had started.  When he reached the stretch, a large man in a T-shirt came out of the stands, hurled aside a security guard and ran to Redmond embracing him.  This was Jim Redmond, Derek’s father.

Dereck and Jim Redmond
Dereck and Jim Redmond

“You don’t have to do this,” he told his weeping son.  “Yes I do,” replied Derek.  “Well then,” said his dad, “Well do it together.”  And so they did.  Fighting off security men, the son’s head sometimes buried in his father’s shoulder.  They stayed in Derek’s lane to the end as the crowd gasped, then rose, and then cried.  They recognized true courage and sheer determination.. .. that thing we Jaycees call “Commitment.”

Our Jaycee year is in the homestretch.  Some us feel injured.  Some of us hurt.  We feel we have given everything we could but it does not matter because we can never win the race.  But you can win the race – the race that is inside you.  You can lie on the track and wait for someone to take you away before the next race begins – the next state officer takes over.  Or you can be like the great Olympian and get up and finish the race as hard as you can.  And I’ll tell you what my Jaycee career has taught me.  When you start working to finish something…giving it all you have – People will cheer.  And more importantly, they’ll join in.

Last month we set our goal and together, working hard we achieved it.  Late one night last month I was in my office writing postcards to some of you.  Thanking you for your special effort – reaching past the limits many thought possible.  Everyone had long gone home.  Just the picture of our founder Henry Giessenbier hanging on the wall for company.

A song came on the radio –  a song that made me think of what little time we had left, but so much still left to do.  The singer say’s he’s in a hurry to get things done, he rushes around till life’s no fun.  He’s in a hurry and doesn’t know why.  He say’s all he’s really got to do, like so many people in America “is just live and die.”  But as he starts to think about it, he realizes why…you see he’s on a roll and he’s ready to rock. 

There’s so much more to life than just sitting back watching people be successful around you.  He starts to pick up the pace, because he’s in his race…there’s no room for second place.  State presidents and officers, district and regional directors…Junior Chamber leaders we all must run as fast as we can…when your people see you, they’ll want join in.

It is time for out gutsiest performance.  It’s time we realize the goals we set earlier in the year.  Each of us made a commitment to leave this organization better off than when we took over and it will take real courage to make the decisions which need to made over the next few months.  We cannot afford to look the other way in our challenges, we must meet them head on and overcome them.  For our Jaycee Chapters to make the impact we need to make in our communities, for our members to develop and mature we must put into play an aggressive public relations campaign, getting our message across into the hands of the major television and radio markets.

Our Jaycee Magazine must be expanded and given real substance, providing information  which will be beneficial to our membership. A governmental affairs area needs to be created so our voice can be heard across this country and in Washington DC.  Field reps and qualified trainers must be sent out in greater numbers to train our state and local officers.  A Foundation program needs to be put into place to give our chapters grants – opportunities to once again build the community parks, carry out the projects, and make the difference in our communities we once did.

Our generation of Jaycees must prepare for the future.  We must have the courage to make the decisions we need to and return this organization to national prominence…and I’m asking you to be a part of that change.  John F. Kennedy said, Change is the law of life and those who only look to the past or present are sure to miss the future.”  Let us embrace our challenges…take advantage of our opportunities and like the great Olympian, finish the race we started.

Listening to the Alabama song, I understood the message (Begin Audio: choice00012Alabama song I’m in a Hurry faintly in the background and rising).  United States Jaycees there are only 105 days left in this Junior Chamber year.  We’re in a hurry to get things done and as the leadership of this great organization, we know why!  Together, let us gather in Greensboro, North Carolina at our Annual Meeting.  Having given everything we had.  Let us push for our members to be their absolute best and let us do it because…

We would settle for nothing less!  Good luck Jaycees.  God bless each of you and God bless the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Speech to the U.S. Junior Chamber State Presidents – September 1992

This speech was given to the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce State Presidents at the Governmental Affairs Leadership Summit held in Washington, DC September 1992 by W.E. “Bill” Russell, 73rd National President.

Speech to the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce State Presidents
Governmental Affairs Leadership Summit
Washington, DC
September 1992

dc0001In Portland, Oregon, I stood before you and identified a challenge we have as a national service organization.  We have in the past concentrated more effort on recruiting new members and beginning new Jaycee Chapters and we were not placing enough attention on the existing members we already have representing Junior Chamber Chapters throughout our great nation.  I have said, and I believe firmly, that we must deliver the training to allow our Jaycee Chapters to manage themselves – that teach personal and leadership skills so that our young people can compete in today’s diverse business world.

We went into our July Officers Training School on a mission – to deliver on that promise…and I think we all agree…we did just that.  The JOTS training was one of the most comprehensive programs the United States Junior Chamber has ever conducted.  You and your state officers of vice presidents and district and regional directors left Tulsa, Oklahoma with new skills and creative training techniques that will allow them to pass on that training at the grass roots level – building new Jaycee Chapters which will have a profound and lasting impact on their respective communities.

Now, where are we today?  Many of us are sitting back waiting for the training to sell itself.  “We’re the new and improved Junior Chamber …  Come on down and look us over!”  I have spoken about the success of Lee Iacocca at Chrysler.  We have the cutting edge product – bright, shiny, and candy apple red.  It’s fast and can hold the curves…stop by and test drive it today!

We may sit here like those salesmen around the showroom thinking of what a great product we have and all the smart marketing ads we’re running.  My question to you – do you really think people are just going to amble on down to the showroom?  Are they just going to flock to your chapters once they hear about your nifty training?

Folks…it doesn’t work that way.  You have to take the product to the people.  Each of you as State Presidents are your organization’s number one salesperson.  If you believe in the product – you have to set the example in selling it.  You lead by example.  Some of you are scared to death to talk about membership to your folks back home.  Well if you do not talk about it – who will?

Let me by crystal clear – membership is people…and we’re in the people business.  You cannot run projects without people.  You can’t put on outstanding programs without people.  You cannot make an impact on your community without people.  You have to get people involved.

You cannot hide behind a shield of programming anymore.  If you do not start recruiting new people into your organization, there will be no one left to train.  It is extremely important to engage the folks you already have as members…get them involved…but let’s give those folks who are not Jaycee members a chance to be a part of something  that can change their life – an opportunity to be a member of America’s premier young person’s choice00011organization – The Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Some of you are living in a field of dreams….create neat programming and they will come…run some great projects in the community and they will come…  Well, this isn’t a Field of Dreams and people don’t just come.  Things don’t just happen.  You’ve got to make it happen.  We better all get out there and get people involved – current members – new members – get them involved today!  Or all we will have left are empty dreams and unrealized promises.

Someone long ago had the courage to ask you to join the Jaycees.  Each of you know what that moment has meant to you.  In many cases it has changed your life. I’m asking you to return that favor.  Change someone’s life.  Give them the special gift someone gave you.  There is no feeling like knowing you have made an impact changing the face of your community.  Making someone’s life just a little bit better.  Leaving your community better than you found it.  When you leave here this weekend – make a commitment to go home and lead your people.  Inspire them to be their very best…to reach goals they never dreamed they could.  Do what you were elected to do. Sell the product you all believe in.   Be your state’s number one salesperson.

1992-93 USJCC National Officers and State Presidents
1992-93 USJCC National Officers and State Presidents

We have a chance to change the face of the world. Let’s make this organization, our organization, the United States Jaycees the organization of choice for today’s young person…and let us not fail in that task!

God bless you all and good luck back home!