Russell’s Ramblings

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

A Lasting Lesson From A Moment In Time

As summer vacations begin to wind down, many of us are refocusing on local businesses, seeking to learn new techniques to attract customers and create new revenue. Learning comes in many forms – seminars, forums, and continuing education. Sometimes though, the most lasting lessons come from the briefest encounters.

Aktion

Aktion Club of Lake Norman

For more than a decade, I have served as the advisor to a group of special needs adults called the Kiwanis Aktion Club. These young adults meet each month at the Lake Norman Chamber to socialize, conduct community projects, and participate in programs to enrich their lives.

Recently, a friend asked if I had a personal connection to this group. Perhaps a family member with special needs or a friend with a disability? As I started to reply, I had to suppress the tears. Yes, there was a story. There’s always a story.

In 1983, I joined a local community service group called the Jaycees and jumped head first into nearly every local project. Then one day, the Chapter President asked for volunteers to participate in Camp Hope Sunday. The statewide charity was a summer camp for children with disabilities. Each year the Jaycees would dedicate one Sunday to drive to this special camp and spend an afternoon with the young campers. The volunteers would take a picnic lunch, usually stopping at KFC just outside of the camp, and spend time with the campers.  After lunch, the kids would sing a few songs for their hosts.

The first few times I was asked to join in, I always found an excuse why I couldn’t attend, but in 1986 I was president of our Jaycee Chapter and felt that I had to go. Once there, I was assigned a little boy. Thirty one years later I still remember his name … Jason. Jason was just like any other ten year old child except he was considered special.  Jason had Down Syndrome.

Shortly after we arrived, we sat down for our picnic. The room was loud with laughter and chatter and Jason hardly took a breath between bites as he filled me in everything that came to his mind. When he reached over and started picking up food off of my plate, I was slightly taken aback.  But Jason just laughed as if he had told the biggest joke of all.

Several minutes later Jason joined a group of kids to sing a few songs. Picture twelve children, all singing the same song, but each and every one in a different harmony and pitch. I caught Jason looking directly at me, eyes locked on mine, and he was smiling from ear to ear. After the last song, he ran back to our table, anxiously asking could I hear him?  “Absolutely,” I replied. I’m quite sure he was the loudest child on stage!  As our group gathered to depart, I’ll never forget that moment when this young boy who I met just hours before, wrapped his little arms tightly around my waist, and said “I love you Mr. Bill.”Aktion 2

We drove three hours back to Rock Hill and although others in the car were carrying on conversations, my thoughts were still on Jason and the other campers. That’s the day, the very moment, I realized Jason didn’t have a special need – I did. But not anymore. I truly believe God gave me that moment with Jason for a reason.

When my friend asked me recently did I have a special needs child of my own? I said yes. I have a couple of dozen of them actually. We meet every month at the Chamber. We call ourselves the Aktion Club.

Some Aktion Club members are in their 20’s, some in their 30’s and they may not be kids – but in a very special way, they’re my kids. When they have every reason in the world to rail against their own particular challenges – they laugh, love, learn, and serve.

Jason touched me in way that I have never forgotten. This ten year old child with Downs taught me I didn’t need to be afraid. He had enough love for us both as he wrapped his arms tightly around me as my body literally shook.  Three decades later I remember that simple hug. It was the afternoon I found God’s Grace in the heart of a child.

Bill Russell

The above article was written for The Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper – July 26, 2017.

 

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August 16, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Lake Norman Aktion Club, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons I have learned along the way #6 – Knowing when to stop!

The following is the sixth a ten part series of “Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way…”

Knowing when to stop 

While I lead a non-profit Chamber of Commerce today, my first occupation after graduating from Winthrop University was serving as a marketing representative for Harper Brothers, an office furniture and supply company in Rock Hill (SC).  Sales isn’t really a subject you can learn from a text-book.  It really derives from natural and learned abilities, experience, knowledge of your product, customer needs and expectations and competitor information as well as good advice or coaching from a mentor or professional coach.

One of the first golden rules I learned from sales was that most people have a tendency to try to pack too much information into their delivery.  We tell them how to build a watch instead of just what time it is.  Sometimes the best sales approach are the simplest ones.    Public speaking is another area where people get caught up in their message and say way too much when they already have their point made.  When I was a teenager, I was terrified of getting up in class and giving reports at Northwestern High.  Eventually though, I overcame that fear through practice and experience.  In 1992, I addressed a convention with a 35 minute speech to 3,500 delegates.  That would not have been possible without practice and preparation.

Charlie Madsen and I meet before my final speech to the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.

I learned to craft talks on a subject and rehearse it over and over until I had the delivery just right.  Then one day, one of my mentors from the Junior Chamber (Jaycees), Charlie Madsen, gave me some simple advice.  “Bill, when you give one of your motivational talks, look around the room.  If you see them eating out of your hand, you know you got them hooked, finish it.  Don’t go into another story or make another point no matter how good you think it is.”

Charlie reminded me of the young politician on his first campaign speech.  He booked a big auditorium hoping for a great crowd, but he found only one man sitting alone  in a chair.  He waited and waited but no one else showed up.  Finally he looked at the lone guy and he said,  “Hey, you think I should get started?”  The man looked at the politician and said, “Sir, I’m just a farmer and all I know are cows.  But if I take a load of hay out and only one cow shows up, I’m still gonna’ feed it.”

So the politician reared back and gave him his best.  He talked on and on for an hour, then two as the farmer shifted back and forth in his seat.  Finally when the politician  wrapped up with his big delivery, he asked the old farmer just how he did.

Once again, the farmer pondered and then said, “Sir, I’m just an old farmer.  All I know are cows.  Of course, I do know that if I took my whole load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow showed up, I wouldn’t dump the whole load on him.”

Charlie winked at me as he made his point.  Your talks, speeches, and sales presentations are defined as much by your audience as your product.  I learned to tailor talks to groups using the people in the room.  Reading expressions to see whether my points had been made or needed to be expanded upon.

The bottom line know your product, know your competitor, most importantly know your audience, and finally know when to stop.

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Were!

Withrop Univeristy, Rock Hill, SC

I cannot think about the holidays without reminiscing of the Christmas Eve’s spent at my grandparents.  The bountiful meals my grandmothers prepared, the Church pageants, and yes…the multitude of gifts under the trees.  And while I will cherish those times, I often think back to an event which touched my heart and perhaps set in motion actions which led to my career with the Chamber today.

It was the Christmas of 1984 and I was Chairman of the Rock Hill Jaycees Christmas Charities project.  We were given a list of 30 or so families a little down on their luck that needed a helping hand.  This wasn’t your Bing Crosby White Christmas.  Rather it was a cold, rainy southern winter evening where you’d much rather be indoors watching television rather than delivering food and toys in the rain.  The family that I was given was several miles out of town.  A fellow Rock Hill Jaycee named Joe Stinson volunteered to team up with me and we drove for what seemed forever in rural Rock Hill. We traveled down muddy slick roads until at last we ventured on an old house sitting alone in the dark dreary night.

Stepping up on the creaking porch, I pulled back the screen door and knocked on the window pane of the door as Joe began unloading the groceries and toys.  A woman came to the door appearing a little puzzled as to her late night visitors.  I explained we were from the Jaycees and were there to help.  Tears slid down her cheek as she explained she was sure no one was coming and she had told the kids there wasn’t going to be a Christmas this year.  The lady said her husband had deserted them and it was just her and the children now.

She wiped back the tears as she talked proudly of her little boys as they could be heard in the background tearing through the house.  Eventually, one of the little tikes ran up and threw his arms tightly around his mother’s waist.  “Mama, mama, who is that?” he asked looking up at Joe and I.  “That’s Santa Clause,” she replied with a bright smile as she rubbed her hand across his head.  The lady thanked and hugged us as we made our way to the door. “God bless you both and Merry Christmas,” she said as she closed it gently behind us.

Joe and I drove back to Rock Hill.  I turned the radio off and we listened to the sounds of the wipers as they scraped along the windshield.  As we neared the city, Joe turned to me and said, “Little brother, we really were…”  Joe’s voice choked off as he looked the other way staring back out the passenger window.  Joe didn’t need to finish his sentence.  We were, that night – we really were.

Rock Hill Jaycees at an early 1990's Christmas Charities project

I will always remember the family gatherings, the wide eyed wonder when I surveyed our den after Santa arrived, and for the reason we all celebrate this most holy time in the first place.  And I will also remember the night we brought an evening of happiness to a mother and her children.  A mother who thought no one remembered – no one cared.  A night when tears were wiped away, hope and promise filled the air, and for a moment in time, we really were.

Merry Christmas and God Bless

December 24, 2010 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , | 1 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

Congress Strikes Out

As news that home sales fell 27 percent in July, the steepest one-month drop since figures were first compiled in 1968, and Americans grow even more concerned with the cost of the healthcare plans which are forcing companies and small businesses alike to delay any hiring of new employees, our U.S. Congress is taking decisive action in Washington, D.C.  They are holding hearings on steroids in baseball.   That’s right, while the American public stares at staggering unemployment numbers, our country annually spends roughly $1.3 trillion more than it takes in, and the economy still appears to be anemic but not altogether dead, our Congressional leaders are taking aim at the greatest nemesis of our time – Roger Clemens.

Rocket during his days with the NY Yankees

William Roger Clemens, nicknamed “Rocket” is a former Major League Baseball Player who won seven Cy Young Awards, more than any other player.  He played for 13 consecutive seasons for the Boston Red Sox before a stint with the N.Y. Yankess where he had his first World Series success.   The Rocket is accused of using Performance Enhancing Drugs and lying about it to Congress.  While I do not condone using steroids, nor do I know if there is definitive proof that the Rocket used them, the fact he is being accused of lying to a group of people, who habitually lie to the American public, is on the face of things – laughable.

The bigger issue is when our national leaders should be huddled in a room trying to solve the budget crisis, sorting out how to put Americans back to work, and reaching consensus on a fiscally responsible approach to taxes and regulations, they are focused on holding a retired baseball player accountable for telling them lies when it comes to using steroids which were not even banned by baseball at the time.

Gaining a competitive edge by the use of injections is nothing new in baseball.  The book The Baseball Hall of Shame’s Warped Record Book, written by Bruce Nash, Bob Smith, and Allan Zullo, includes an account of Babe Ruth administering himself with an injection of an extract from sheep testicles.  It didn’t improve his game, however, and it is recorded that he pulled himself out of the game with a “bellyache.”

I’m not sure I ever took anything that could be considered a performance enhancing drug but I do admit that I was allowed to go outside and participate in a neighborhood pick up game of football only after I lied to my mother.  I think the statute of limitations has long expired on what I now admit was nothing but a complete falsehood – an out and out deceitful act on my part.

Glazed Rutabagas

Mama was cooking those infamous rutabagas, which if you have never experienced their unique aroma, is both quite distinctive and breathtaking.  In a word – “revolting”.  Dad was attending a meeting of the Rock Hill Jaycees  and informed mom he would be missing our dinner.  Mom took that as an opportunity to prepare her cornbread, rutabagas, turnip greens and ham.  While the aforementioned meal was most delicious and I long for the days of her cooking, I could do without those copper colored rutabagas.

Anxious to rejoin my buddies waiting out in the yard for my return, while mom wasn’t looking, I scraped my helping of rutabagas on my brother’s plate.  Todd, who was likely five or six at the time was left defenseless as mom now required him to clean his plate before he could leave the table.

I, on the other hand, dashed madly outside to rejoin the football game still in progress and my rightful place as a legend in my own mind when it came to athletic prowess on my backyard gridiron.

My Brother Todd - His angelic quality perhaps came from the rutabagas - who knows

I now humbly and with deep humility apologize to my brother Todd for what I did.  And I ask my mother’s forgiveness for not only not eating the copper colored yucky square things but for telling a fib about the whole affair.

Now, with that off my chest, perhaps I will not be called up to Capital Hill for my chicanery and they can get to the business of solving the real issues facing our country.

Actually, there’s a better chance I’ll eat a plate of rutabagas for breakfast!

September 1, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speech to the South Carolina Jaycees Fall 1993

South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce

Fall Board of Directors Meeting

Columbia, South Carolina

Sunday, November 14, 1993

 

South Carolina Jaycees, it’s great to be home.  Live from St. George, S.C. the cultural Mecca of the South.  When I arrived on Friday evening, I had pretty much prepared my opening and closing remarks.  However, I have always thought, the best talks I gave you were the ones from the heart.  Sitting at the table yesterday, I listened as one of my Jaycee Heroes – Robby Dawkins addressed our Jaycees.  Robby began by dedicating his speech.  It dawned on me… I’ve never done that and I believe I want to today.

 

My first Jaycee speech came some ten years ago when I ran for district director for district three.  Since that time I have given speeches to many different organizations…the Rotary, Kiwanis, Moose, Elks and all of the other animal clubs.  I’ve given talks in 47 states in towns and cities I’ve long forgot.  But in all those times, I’ve never dedicated a speech to an individual.

 

I remember David Duncan, our former state legal counsel and a fellow Rock Hill Jaycee once told me, I’d go far in this organization if I could just learn to speak.  Well, in those ten years, I don’t know if I’ve improved very much, but I certainly have had more podium exposure than David Duncan…sorry David!

 

Portland, Oregon…and being elected national president of our organization was one of the biggest thrills of my life. South Carolina  Lt. Governor Nick Theodore said it best yesterday when he reminded us all that it was the generation of Jaycees who came before us, and many still in this room today, who gave Robby and myself the opportunity we experienced as national presidents of our great organization – The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.  Many of my family members were unable to attend.  However, the national office captured much of the event and the speeches on video.  I remember my Grandmother Russell, after watching a video, said, “You speak as well as any of those Kennedy boys.”  I told my Grandmother being a Conservative Republican and compared to a Kennedy was not exactly a compliment.  

 

However, to my Grandmother Russell…it was the highest compliment she could pay.  To her, the Democratic party was the party that pulled her family out of the Great Depression.  It was the party of the working man…the farmer…the poor.  Two months after taking office as president, my father made a call to me.  They had found a cancer in grandmamma…”Bumba” we children called her. She was in her seventies and faced with radical surgery, my Grandmother said she would place her fate in God’s hands.  “Just pray for me,” she asked.  Throughout the year, Bumba rarely left my thoughts.

 

When I called home from our headquarters in Tulsa, she would tell me how proud she was of her grandson.  While she loved all the grandchildren, I had been the first and both grandmothers spoiled me terribly.  So I get it honest huh?  I invited her out to the Ten Outstanding Young Americans program (TOYA) – our premier Jaycee event.  Unfortunately her health would not allow it, although my grandfather attended with my dad.  She asked that I tape it for her….”I know you’ll do good.” I could almost feel the smile on her face from the end of the phone.

Bumba with Grandaddy Russell - 50 Year Anniversary

Bumba with Grandaddy Russell - 50 Year Anniversary

 

 

 

Three weeks after our summer board meeting, Grandmamma lost her battle with cancer … just two days shy of my birthday.  She never had the chance to see me speak in person.  She will today, this speech is for Bumba.

 

A little while ago, I passed someone in the hall who asked what I was speaking about. Before I had the chance to answer, some other Jaycee walking by and overhearing the question, shot back…”membership…doesn’t he always!”  It was much more of a statement than a question.  But I realized long ago, you can’t train people to be leaders if you don’t have people.  You can’t run projects without people.  No matter how good your individual development programs are, it does no good at all without people.  Face it…we’re in the people business.

 

Listening to Lt. Governor Theodore yesterday, I cannot put it any more eloquently.   His charge to you was to involve more people.  He knows what the Junior Chamber has meant to him…go share it with others…you never know where the next Lt. Governor…perhaps Governor will get their start!

 

I’d like to spend a few minutes talking with you about the challenges that face America…challenges I have witnessed in my travels across our country and the half dozen countries I visited representing our membership.  You see…there is much we Jaycees could change…if we wanted to.

 

If you were in Greensboro, NC you heard me talk about picking up a Tulsa World newspaper last December and seeing men and women surrounded by armed guards.  That may not sound unusual, but these men and women were not protesters or rioters.  They were Christmas Carolers.  The Town of Vienna, Virginia had outlawed the singing of religious songs on public property.  So the men, women and children of Vienna had to sing Silent Night behind barricades.

 

Sounds much like one of the countries Robby Dawkins traveled to in Eastern Europe while he was world president of Junior Chamber International … perhaps Russia or Estonia.  Instead it was America…1992.

 

There is an organization raising hell because we’re not raising enough money for AIDS research.  Don’t misinterpret what I’m about to say…we do need to educate more people about sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS.  But that very same group is introducing “How to sex manuals” in our public schools.  How to have sex with the opposite sex, same sex, sex in every conceivable way…to our children in schools?  Is that the education we need?

 

That same group, known as “Act Up”, are upset because we’re not spending enough money on AIDS research.  AIDS is the ninth leading cause of death in America. Yet, three months ago, President Bill Clinton slashed assistance to MDA, Cancer and Heart Disease while increasing AIDS funding by 30%.  While I’m not opposed to raising and spending more money for research on AIDS.  Who cries out for the child born with low birth weight?  Who’s wearing ribbons for the people suffering from cancer and heart disease?

 

What about the teenager who’ll never see 23 because of Cystic Fibrosis?  The activist of America have taken charge.  In Tulsa, Oklahoma, while flipping between channels a lesbian appeared on C-Span and talked about how she had recently introduced the book, “Heather has Two Mommies and Daddy Has A Boyfriend.”  She said that it was her goal to recruit those children to their lifestyle.  Listen – what consenting adults choose to do is their business.  But the children are a different issue.

 

Animal rights groups are showing slides on how some cow was put to death and mutilated so mommy can have meatloaf on the table to our kids in schools …and yet three weeks ago, the Gideon’s were kicked off a campus because they wanted to distribute Bibles to those who wanted them.

 

Thank goodness, there’s an organization of young people who believe that “Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life.”  In a time when we spend so much time segregating Church and State, we should realize you can’t separate God and Government.  This country was founded on freedom of religion…not freedom from religion.  The Ten Commandments are not the Ten Suggestions…they’re commandments.  Many of the religions of the world contain them as a basis for their core beliefs.

 

Jaycees have always supported the president and though I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton, I agree with him on the North American Free Trade Agreement.  NAFTA will be good for America.  It will be good for South Carolina.  However, a few months ago he introduced the National Service Act which will pay the tuition of college kids if they go out and perform community service.  In a country that is three trillion dollars in debt, we don’t need any more social service programs. On the contrary, we need to find a way to cut the national debt.  It is the responsibility of every American to improve their community.  It is our obligation as citizens.  You should not have to pay people for that.

 

Our government takes from the pockets of those who work hard and gives to those who choose not to work.  Our welfare program is nothing but legalized stealing.  What kind of incentives are we giving to Americans to give their very best?  Thank God there’s an organization who believe in “free men through free enterprise.”

 

I remember watching the film of John Kennedy who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – but what you can do for your country.”  Today, that credo has changed…Today your government asks “what more can we give you?  …don’t worry, somebody else will pay for it.”  It’s time to take a stand.

 

Critics talk about the faults of our educational system.  But the education of children start in the home.  If you don’t teach children values, teachers will not be able to when they get to school.  Your children are a model of yourselves.  You need to look at Jaycee kids like Kelly Pickering and David Watson to understand what Jaycees and the Junior Jaycees program does for our children.

 

America is crying out for leadership.  Nick said it yesterday.  The future leaders of our communities, towns, and school boards are sitting in this room.  State President Young asked me to motivate you.  Well….I cannot.  You see, motivation is a personal thing.  It comes from within.  No amount of shirts, plaques, points, or parades are going to get you to do something you don’t want to do.  You have to feel passionately about something.  Motivation is a personal thing.

 

I can’t tell you what to believe nor would I try.  I can tell you I believe in those 65 words of the Jaycee Creed.  I believe that Government should be of laws rather than of men and it’s high time we stopped letting the activist groups of this country determine our future.  When extremist groups cry out loudly to be heard… the majority of Americans just want to be comfortable.  Well …I haven’t been comfortable in a long time.

 

I thank God I have the opportunity to work every day as a Chamber of Commerce Executive.  Working to improve the quality of life for our citizens; provide educational opportunities for our children; to bring quality health care to our region.  It gives me a chance to live out our creed.  There’s a quote I ran across long ago that represents what I live my life by.  Some credit it to Lincoln…others to George Bernard Shaw, it goes like this:

 

     “This is the true joy of life, that being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.  Being a force of nature, instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.  I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, because the harder I work the better I live. 

 

Life is no brief candle to me.  It is but a splendid torch which I have gotten hold of for just a moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before I hand it off to the next generation.”

 

You want a reason to get motivated….I can give you 200.  Two hundred children who have depended on the South Carolina Jaycees since 1960 for a summer camp in Clemson.  A dream for the mentally impaired children of our state…a dream called hope – Camp Hope.  This year we’ve raised $42,000 and that’s great.  But I see an organization made up of 10,000 South Carolina Jaycees raising $200,000.  I see an organization working hard so that one day, we don’t need the camp at all.

 

     Get that fire folks.  Ross Perot said it, Bill Clinton picked it up….Take this jfk00012country back.  You are the next generation of leaders.  The torch has been passed.  I know you can.  Because you would settle for nothing less.  South Carolina can feel the power of her young people.  God bless you and God bless the South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jaycee Speech – “Dirt Roads” Circa 1994-1999

junior-chamber-logo0001Years ago, when I was just a teenager I remember taking a walk with my Granddaddy Russell through some of the back roads near his house.  He raised a few head of cattle and every once in a while they would venture to another pasture to graze on the tall grass.  I remember he made a comment to me, something I didn’t understand at the time.  “You know what’s wrong with the world”, he said, “there’s not enough dirt roads.” Being a city boy I replied, “Why would you want to live on a dirt road?” Mark Twain once said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be 21, 1 was astonished at how’ much he had learned in 7 years.” I think I understand now what my grandfather meant…  the world continues to change… progress, evolution. Society, its values and customs also evolve.   Here in South Carolina, our communities continue to grow, prosper, and change.

Today we are faced with challenges that come with these changes … crime, drugs, school overcrowding,  family deterioration, traffic congestion, and yes even gang related incidents.  Challenges which could be solved with just a few dirt roads. You see, dirt roads build character.  People who live at the end of dirt roads learn early that life is a bumpy road… it can jar you right down to your bones-but its worth it if waiting at the end is your home with a loving spouse, happy kids, and a frisky puppy dog. We wouldn’t have near the problem with juvenile issues today if our kids got exercise walking a dirt road with other kids with whom they learn to get along.

There was less crime in our streets before they were paved.  Criminals did not walk two dusty miles to rob you when they knew they would be welcomed by five barking dogs and a loaded shotgun. Our values were better when our roads were worse.  People didn’t worship their cars and houses more than their kids.  Dirt roads were a sign of simpler times. But we out grew them.  America grew up.  The world grew up. Who would have believed 30 years ago when my Grandfather was still a young man – that in Russia –  the statues of Lenin would be replaced by the Golden Arches of McDonald’s. That Coke would replace Vodka as the beverage of choice. That the Berlin wall would crumble into souvenirs.

Here in America, young people continue to turn to drugs for an answer. Men and women line the city streets looking for shelter.  Health care costs are moving out of reach.    People are losing faith in their Government leaders, and volunteerism is on the decline. Where are we headed?  Never in the history of this country has volunteers been needed more than today. We stand at the precipice of tomorrow and America is calling out to its volunteers.  Men and women of vision and action.   President Bill Clinton took a step in the right direction in 1992 when he recognized the need for national citizen service.  We must understand that government can’t solve the problems of people.  Only people can solve the problems of people.

We must take responsibility for the future of our communities assisting bobby1those who cannot help themselves.  We should instill positive values in our young people by our actions rather than by our words.  We should make our communities the best possible place to work and to live.  And we should do it not because of what we gain, but what we become by doing it.  A revolution faces both this country and our government………. not a revolution of armed men and women, but a revolution of change.
Thirty years ago, Robert F. Kennedy had a vision of America, he said,  “A revolution is coming- a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough- but a revolution is coming whether we will it or not … we can affect its character, we cannot alter its inevitability.” It’s time to rekindle the spirit of cooperation and volunteerism in this country.  We must use our talents to create a better place to live.  It is our responsibility passed down by the generations which came before us and the legacy we leave for the next generation.
Even the most active of us sometimes wonders whether our vote…our actions…the time we may volunteer really make a difference.  The world is so complex can we really change the face of our communities? I want to be honest with you.  I can’t motivate you to do anything.  I can’t get you to do anything you really don’t want to do.  But I can tell you…yes, we can make a difference. Do you realize that somewhere within ten miles of where you’re sitting… a child will go to bed hungry tonight?  That somewhere within 20 miles of where you’re sitting.. a teenager will try his or her first marijuana cigarette?

Somewhere today at one of our area hospitals…a crack baby will be born already addicted to drugs. Sometime tonight a teenager, perhaps neglected or abused by their parents, pushed by his or her peers, will commit their first crime. Can we prevent all this from happening?  Probably not.  But if we can feed one child, educate one mother on the effects of drugs and alcohol, on her baby….if we can steer one child away from drugs or crime by spending a little time with them.  Showing them that we care.  Shouldn’t we try?   Aren’t they worth it?

The cost for each of you may be a little extra time from your job…or perhaps an evening watching a rerun of Sienfeld.  It may mean missing that golf game this weekend or the trip to the lake.  But the cost to any one of those less fortunate… the one’s who need our compassion and understand.   The cost to them could mean their life. The question for you is are they worth it?  I think they are.  I think you  do to or you wouldn’t be here today.  Let’s work together to make our communities a better place to work and live.  Let’s make a difference in a few lives…today.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 35 little random truths I’ve encountered along the way

It’s hard for me to believe but in less than six months, I hit the big “5-0”.  Wow!  So, here are a few of the gems I’ve had to learn the hard way. The 35 little random truths I’ve encountered along life’s highway:

 

1. In any of my relationships, there have been highs and there have been lows and just one single high in each is greater than all the lows put together.

2. The worst truth is better than the very best lie.

3. In my Jaycee career, our local chapter in Rock Hill was recognized at the National Convention as the #1 Jaycee Chapter in the Number #1 Jaycee State (South Carolina) in America for two consecutive years in a row. That didn’t suck.

4. You cannot be successful standing on the sidelines watching the game of life played without you.

5. I’m not afraid of dying. I would be more afraid of never having fully lived. I have.

6. The most spectacular sight in the world is to see the sun rise on the horizon at South Beach (Miami). If you are a late riser, you can still see a spectacular sight at 2 pm out by the pool.

7. I was sixteen years old before I found out that Robert E. Lee was not the third member of the Holy Trinity.

8. The greatest reward for a person’s toil is not what they gain but what they become by doing it.

9. There was a couple of girls in high school whose kisses could make the world stop spinning. Congratulations to the men that married them.

10. Why is it easy to say “I do” and so damned difficult to say “I’m sorry”?

11. Dogs love you unconditionally. Cats are another story.

12. We could have saved a great deal of national anguish if Lee and Grant would have just stepped out the back of the tent and settled things. Give Ulysses a fifth or two and then just beat the crap out of him.

13. Dixie isn’t a black or white thing. It’s a state of mind. And if you don’t get it, you’re not from Dixie.

14. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. But try explaining that to the dead guy’s family.

15. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. However, you can sure as hell make him wish he had.

16 Love what you do, do what you love, and deliver more than you promise – and my apologies to Gene Martin for stealing that line I’ve used for 20 years.

17 Anybody who does not think I’m patient did not sit with me in the stands at Williams Bryce for two years when the Cocks went 1 and 21 over two seasons.

18 We weren’t born racists.

19 The innocence of a child is God’s gift to humanity.

20 Speaking of God, I’m convinced he made me a Gamecock fan to keep me humble.

Go cocks!

Go cocks!

21 If there is a hell, and I believe there is, I would share it with 82,000 obnoxious fans dressed in purple and orange watching their team play for a national championship over and over for eternity. And did I mention that damn song? Go cocks!

22. Democrats believe government can solve any problem. Republicans believe people solve problems.

23. Those northern folks who always made fun of my accent are going to be real shocked when they get to heaven, and “She say’s ya’ll come on in.”

24. I’ve been a winner and I have been a loser. Trust me. Winning is a whole lot better. Coming in second sucks.

25. Some of us reach maturity faster than others. Some have maturity forced on them. And then there’s the rest of us that have to be whomped on top of the head.

26. If you are around long enough, bad things will happen to you. How you respond to those bad things reveal your character.

27. And when those bad things happen, remember – God never allows anything to happen that he (or she) does not expect you to be able to handle.

28. Life is a brief candle. Burn as brightly as possible and be thoroughly used up when you die.

29. Live life such that your friends and family say when you pass, “The Good Lord gave him the talents and abilities to change the face of the world – and he did.”

30. There was a elderly lady named Mrs. Trumbell who used to teach bible classes in second and third grade at Finley Road Elementary School in Rock Hill before the courts said we couldn’t have prayer in schools. She gave us all little red Bibles and recounted all the Old Testament stories that kept us in awe and made our imaginations race. God bless you Mrs.Trumbell.

31. Between Jeannie or Samantha – I’ll take Jeannie. That is if I can’t have both. And oh yeah, Mary Anne.

32. I cried when Dale won the Daytona 500. I wept again when he died there. And I still get tears in my eyes when I think about Junior going to the front six months later. Try and convince me God isn’t a NASCAR fan.

33. I’d love to have five minutes with Osama Bin Laden. I think God would forgive me.

34. I have always loved my mama, respected my daddy, and I sure miss my grandmamma Russell’s biscuits.

35. and I still believe the only limitations we have are those we place upon ourselves.

There endeth the lesson.

 

April 6, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Once in a lifetime… if you’re lucky

 

Bobby Hyman - The Original Traveling Animal

Bobby Hyman - The Original Traveling Animal

Over a decade ago, I had the opportunity to listen and observe a young man give an acceptance speech after he was recognized by the Jaycees for a lifetime’s work.  I choose my words deliberately when I say this young man had already completed a life’s work because shortly after his motivating speech to his audience, he passed away. 

 

 

He was in his late forties at the time when his heart just gave out.  Many of us who were close to him wondered how the Lord could call someone home who still had so much more to give.  While I may never fully realize the answer to that question, I will never forget the words that still resonate with me today.  Once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky,” he said with a pause.  “God gives you the chance to change the face of your community and leave it a better place than it was when you found it.”

 

Recently I was asked by a new Chamber member what I did.  I told them I was the President of the Chamber.  The member looked at me quizzingly, and asked again, “Yea, I know.   But what do you do as a profession?”  Actually, the member did not know I was employed by the Chamber.  He assumed I was a volunteer.  I smiled at him, knowing what he meant, and replied, “I’m a builder.”  I walked away, perhaps leaving him convinced I was in construction.

 

However I left that conversation, I felt in my heart I had answered him fully.  I’m a really lucky guy.  Each day I go into work knowing full well I help build something.  I help build a better organization.  I help build a better economy for our businesses.  I help build a better community.  The bottom line is each day I have the opportunity to leave my region better than I found it.

 

It’s inspiring each day to see individuals in the community working together to solve community challenges.  Just today I had the opportunity to feel the energy of citizens preparing to shape the vision for their downtown in Huntersville.    Every day our Chamber members volunteer their time and talent to make our region a great place to do business and a wonderful community to live for our residents.  Our civic clubs, churches, and non-profits are working together to improve the lives of those who need a helping hand.  animals

 

As long as I live I will remember the young man, fighting back tears of joy, as he stood before his peers.  In a short time he had touched a lot of hearts and left his community better than he found it.  It’s an opportunity the Good Lord gives each of us.  Once in a lifetime…if you’re lucky.

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , | Leave a comment

A Christmas Tale

ChristmasI cannot think about Christmas and the holidays without thinking of the Christmas Eve’s spent at my grandparents.  The bountiful meals grandmamma Feemster and Russell prepared, the Church pageants, and yes…the multitude of gifts under the trees.  And while I will cherish those times, I often think back to an event which touched my heart and perhaps set in motion actions which led to my career today.

It was the Christmas of 1984 and I was chairman of the Rock Hill Jaycees Christmas Charities event.  We were given a list of 30 or so families a little down on their luck that needed a helping hand.  This wasn’t your Bing Crosby White Christmas.  Rather it was your typical cold, rainy southern winter evening where you’d much rather be indoors watching TV rather than delivering food and toys in the rain.

The family that I was given was several miles out of town.  A fellow Jaycee named  Joe Stinson volunteered to team up with me.  We drove for what seemed forever in the country, down muddy slick roads, until at last we ventured on an old house sitting alone in the dark dreary night.

SteppingJunior Chamber Logo0001 up on the creaking porch, I pulled back the screen door, and knocked on the window pane of the door as Joe began unloading the groceries and toys.  A woman came to the door appearing a little puzzled as to her late night visitors.  I explained we were from the Jaycees and were there to help.  Tears slid down her cheek as she explained she was sure no one was coming and she had told the kids there wasn’t going to be a Christmas this year.  The lady said her husband had left them and it was just her and the children now.

She wiped back the tears as she talked proudly of her little boys as they could be heard in the background tearing through the house.  Eventually, one of the little tikes ran up and threw his arms tightly around his mother’s waist.  “Mama, mama, who is that?,” he asked looking up at Joe and I.  “That’s Santa Clause,” she replied with a bright smile as she rubbed her hand across his head.

The lady thanked and hugged us as we made our way to the door. “God bless you both and Merry Christmas,” she said as she closed the door gently behind us.

 Joe and I drove the long trip back to Rock Hill.  I turned the radio off and we listened to the sounds of the wipers as they scraped along the windshield.  As we neared the city, Joe turned to me and said, “Little brother, we really were…,”  Joe’s voice choked off as he looked the other way staring back out the passenger window.  Joe didn’t need to finish his sentence.  We were.   That night – we really were.

I will always remember the family gatherings, the wide eyed wonder when I surveyed our den after Santa arrived, and the other magical moments that make this time of year so special.  And I will also remember the night we brought an evening of happiness to a mother and her children.  A mother who thought no one remembered. – no one would come.  A night when tears were wiped away, hope and promise filled the air, and we really were.

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , | 3 Comments