Russell’s Ramblings

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

Finding Light in the Darkness

The following article was written expressly for the May issue of Flame. To read articles written by other Lake Norman Business and Community Leaders visit:  https://bit.ly/2zxxktD

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “In every individual’s life, comes that special moment when he or she will be called upon to do something great, and what a tragedy it would be, if at that moment, they were unprepared for the task.”

G Russell May Flame

Granddaddy Russell working in his garden.

Growing up as a boy, I would spend weekends with my grandparents.  On a Saturday night after supper, Granddaddy Russell and I would sit on the backdoor steps where he would polish his shoes.  He always wanted to look his best for Church the next morning.

I still recall one evening when he asked, “Billy, have you got those shoes shined up for church tomorrow?”  I recall answering that my shoes were still shined from the week before.

Not one to be deterred, Granddaddy examined my shoes, gave me a stern look, and simply handed me the brush and polish.  Granddaddy would sometimes spit on his shoes as he polished them to bring them to a high luster. And I would spit on my shoes as well, because that’s what granddaddy did.

Afterwards we would retire to the dining room table to do our “lessons.”  That’s what he called reading and studying the bible passages we would review the next day in Sunday School.  I would have much rather watched television, but granddaddy said we had to study for church.  “But why do we have to read all that?” I would ask.  “We’ll be reading it again tomorrow.”  He would point out.  “You need to be prepared.”

As I write this column, we are three weeks into a “Stay at Home” order imposed by Mecklenburg Country and the State as we wrestle with the physical and economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The illness has already claimed thousands of lives here in America and could rage on for weeks to come.

I am not sure anyone in the world foresaw the severity of this outbreak and there is no question our federal and state agencies were unprepared. As grave as this issue may be, I do believe we can emerge from it a much better community and nation.

Few of us will ever face a crisis as dire as this event unfolding before us. While the community, country and world are filled with anxiety and fear, there are many who are emerging as leaders. Not just the healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines, but everyday Americans looking to lend a helping hand. Whether it’s as simple as donating to a cause or delivering food and other essentials to those in need, our community is pulling together!

This temporary pause also gives each of us time to reflect on what is important not only in our business but in our personal lives. Each of us can use this time to reprioritize goals and set new objectives.  A great many of us have discovered new technologies to communicate with clients and friends which we not have previously utilized.

But the biggest opportunity may be the opportunity to be the person you can be after the pandemic and not the person you were going to be.

As a little boy, I could not have imagined that a virus could single handedly stop the American economy and hold our nation hostage. But perhaps this is the moment in time Sir Winston Churchill spoke about. An opportunity when we are called upon to be our absolute best – and a time when we dare not fail in that task.

W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

May 3, 2020 Posted by | Leadership Lessons, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Congress – Our American Lost Cause?

U.S. Rep Tom Gettys in 1967 with Bill and Sarah Russell and Bill Jr.

One of my favorite movies is Mr. Smith goes to Washington. In this 1939 film, Jimmy Stewart, the head of the Boy Rangers, is appointed by the Governor to replace the unexpired term of a deceased Senator. Ironically the film which is now a classic was attacked by the Washington press and then elected officials as Anti-American and Pro-Communist for its portrayal of the corruption in the American Government.

This month, a delegation of business leaders from the Lake Norman Chamber will visit Washington as we meet with our federal delegation on issues ranging from highway improvements to health care and labor. It is an annual trip we make to advocate on behalf of our local businesses and the communities in which we live and work.

My first trip to Washington, D.C. was when I was nine years old. My mom and dad were attending a Jaycees Convention in nearby Baltimore and upon its completion, Congressman Tom Gettys invited us to the capital. Rep. Gettys was not unlike the fictional Jefferson Smith. A Navy veteran, Gettys was a school teacher and then Postmaster for the City of Rock Hill. He was elected in a special election to fill a resignation of our Congressman and then was reelected to four succeeding terms.

Granddaddy (Elie) Russell displaying the South Carolina Flag.

Rep. Gettys taught my Granddaddy Russell civics at Rock Hill High School and for many years after that, he and Rep. Gettys both fondly remembered the occasion. It was the first class he taught as a high school teacher. Tom self taught his way in law and passed the bar exam without ever attending law school. Perhaps unheard of today. He was also a Jaycee who mentored many of the business and civic leaders who later led Rock Hill, my father among them. My grandfather recalled what Congressman Gettys instilled in all the young people he taught – “Create a genuine interest in seeing those around you succeed. Help them achieve it, and in turn, you will be successful as well.”

It is a lesson we could all heed in both business and politics. How many of us have attended a recent networking event and spent the better part of our time listening to someone talking about themselves and their product or service with the hopes of selling more? I doubt it left you with the strong impression you wanted to be that next customer.

Instead, commit yourself to finding out more about the people you meet. How can you make them more successful? Can you help them get in front of that potential customer or client? In essence, help them reach their potential.

While we understand well how important that principle is when it comes to networking and building solid a relationship, it seems few in Washington put the interest of others before themselves. Perhaps it’s a lost cause hoping that Congress will once again put the American people before the interest of their party.

Stewart's Sen. Jefferson Smith during his filibuster

But lost causes were precisely what Sen. Jefferson Smith in the movie relished. “All you people don’t know about lost causes,” he says 23 hours and 16 minutes into his filibuster. Directing his remarks to his chief adversary, Sen. Joseph Paine, he continues, “Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for.”

Congressman Gettys overcame long odds. He understood the lesson of putting others and service before self. It was a lesson he taught in his high school civics class. One that my grandfather later taught my dad and one that he later taught me.

Some might think that’s a lost cause – but many of us believe it’s one worth fighting for!

September 8, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , | Leave a comment