Russell’s Ramblings

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

Lessons along the way – #1 “Love your people”

This is part one in a ten part series of lessons I have learned along the way.  Here is a lesson I learned from Coach…

Bill Russell and Coach Ray Parlier

I’m not sure there is a single principle more important than simply loving your people. I’ve always enjoyed reading books by John C. Maxwell, and in one of his books he had a statement from President Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” During my lifetime I have been president of roughly a dozen different organizations including several civic organizations and two chambers of commerce. Leading a non-profit, charity, or civic club is different than leading a business given your employees are paid and in the non-profit world, the motivation is largely personal incentive. That said, there are also striking similarities. In the outstanding business book by Jim Collins Built to Last, the biggest takeaway from the book is that a company or business must be base on a set of strong core values and those values must be practiced daily.

In 1985, I met a man named Ray Parlier. Ray and I were very involved in the South Carolina Jaycees and later he would lead the state organization as President. He also became one of my political advisors when I was National President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce. While Ray was extremely successful in the Junior Chamber, his real impact was shaping the lives of kids at Furman University where he served as Athletic Director during the time when it claimed its only National Football Championship. Ray’s influence on me was profound, but his greatest lesson was to love your people. If you demonstrate how much you care about the people you lead, they will follow you anywhere. People always came first with Coach Parlier and he was a master at making you feel special.

Coach Ray and I review a list of state caucuses I am to speak at during my national election in Portland.

He called until it was too late to talk on the phone. Then he would switch to addressing postcard after postcard thanking folks for the smallest things. Ray was a fierce competitor and he believed everyone had a place on the team. The quarterback who made the perfect fade pass was important but so was the trainer who conditioned the players. Ray gave out more plaques and incentives than anyone I ever met and sometimes it was the smallest tokens that people desired the most. It wasn’t the size of the reward but the appreciation for the job well done. I’m not sure I ever saw as many men hug each other as they did under the leadership of Coach. He made you feel good about yourself and your effort.

Someone recently asked me what I attributed the success of the Chamber, Sure the location of our businesses itself, located in the lake region, contributes to our success. We have businesses that work their plan, take advantage of our networking events, and our outstanding programming. However, the thing that sets our chamber apart, which enables us to be the best of the best, is our appreciation of each other. You have to show folks how much you care. It’s the basis of leadership.

Ray & I while the votes are counted for SC Jaycee State President - 1990

I still remember a Saturday morning in Charleston, S.C. when I had just been elected President of the South Carolina Jaycees. Coach Ray Parlier put his arm around me, hugging me tight, looking me square in the eyes, a smile across his face, he said, “Bill, love your people and they’ll love you back.” That may well have been the single best business advice I ever received.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The day daddy died … or didn’t

Bill Russell Sr. & Jr. - 2010 Father's Day

On a Saturday morning, August 9, 1969, WRHI, the leading radio station in Rock Hill, led breaking news that a tragic boating accident had occurred during the late evening hours the night before on Lake Wylie.  Several prominent business and community leaders had been killed and among the missing was Bill Russell, past president of the Rock Hill Jaycees – my father.  The tragedy occurred following a regional meeting of the South Carolina Jaycees.  At the conclusion of the meeting, several officers from the Clover, Gaffney, and Rock Hill Jaycee Chapters (seven Jaycees in all) decided to enjoy a late night boat cruise.

A boat piloted by a Clover Jaycee was struck head on by a cabin cruiser.  The coroner’s report later determined it to be an accident. While no one was injured in the larger vessel, two young men from Gaffney, Thomas Baines and Michael Campbell, both 26, were killed along with the President of the Rock Hill Jaycees C. Well Hayes. Wells was just 28 years old. John Every, another Rock Hill Jaycee, who would later be elected South Carolina Jaycee State President, was severely injured and never fully recovered from the incident.

When members of the Clover and Rock Hill Rescue Squad arrived on the scene, the Jaycees involved were either badly injured or missing leaving officials to speculate who might have been on the boat. My dad was Rock Hill’s chapter representative to the Clover Jaycees having helped establish the organization and it was assumed he too was on the boat and missing. Ironically, it may have been his commitment with civic service that he was not. Dad was also a Commissioner on the Rock Hill Pony League sponsored by the City of Rock Hill Parks & Recreation.  The Championship playoffs were scheduled for that weekend.  Both the Jaycee and baseball events were scheduled for a Friday night. Dad was required to be at the Pony league game in case a protest arose and a decision would have to be made at the time of protest.  That requirement may well have saved his life.  Instead of attending the Jaycee meeting, he attended the Pony League ballgame with his nine-year old son “Billy”.

My mom received a phone call early that Saturday morning from Joyce Tucker, a close friend, whose husband Charles was both a firefighter and volunteer rescue squad member. Tucker was among the first to arrive at the scene and was told Bill Russell was thought to be among the young men who were missing.  One can only wonder now the phone calls that were made that morning before the advent of cell phones and answering machines.

Upon hearing the news, my parents immediately headed out to the lake to find out first hand what had happened to their friends while at the same time, put to rest any concerns as to the safety of my father. Mom and dad proceeded to the public boat landing where the rescue and recovery was being conducted.  Upon arrival, the first person they encountered was Mary Colvin, the director of the Rock Hill Red Cross.  At the time dad was also president of the Red Cross chapter. Dad said Mary on seeing him, ran up and hugged his neck telling dad the squad was in the process of dragging the river for him.

John Every Memorial Award - Bill Russell, Doug Griffin & Ray Parlier

Twenty one years later, I was elected the first president of the Rock Hill Jaycees whose father had also served in that capacity.  We had a great year and it culminated with the Rock Hill Junior Chamber being recognized as the #1 Jaycee Chapter in the state.  We were presented a #1 Trophy and a plaque citing our outstanding achievement.  While I was thrilled with that recognition, my hands literally shook when I was presented the C. Wells Hayes Memorial Award as president of the Best Jaycee Chapter in the District.

A couple of years later, I was presented with the John Every Memorial Award for my service to the South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce.  I still remember the tears which streamed down my cheeks accepting the award. For all the reasons many in the crowd may have thought I was shedding a tear, I could not help think how fortunate I was, not for what I was receiving but for something I had … and never lost.

The Jaycee organization taught me to do what you love, love what you do, and deliver more than you promise.  I have tried to live out that philosophy in my role with that organization, the chambers of commerce I have served, and the many organizations I have chaired and been a part of as a Board or involved member.

Outgoing Junior Chamber President presenting dad the highest award from the U.S. Jaycees

I’ve come to realize three things as I approach each day. Having lost two close friends of mine recently, Scott Hinkle and Mike Shipley, both young men with their lives in front of them, I can’t help but think how precious and short life really is.  There is no promissory note.  No guarantees of what we have to look forward to in this life.  Simply, we have today and that is God’s gift to us. What we make of it is our gift back to God.

The second thing is God must really have a sense of humor. That’s why he made me a Gamecock fan. I’m convinced God made me a Gamecock to keep my humble as I go through this journey of life.

And the last thing. Well, it’s the thing that keeps the smile on my face. Knowing all the northerners will be shocked when they get to Heaven and God says, “Ya’ll come on in.” She’s got a southern accent you know.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

June 20, 2010 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Parading Around

One of the Many Parades

One of the Many Parades

One of the professions before I decided to pursue a career in association management was that of a property manager for a Charlotte-based real estate firm.  The company managed several properties in Columbia, S.C.  Among them was the Bank of America Tower downtown.  While I enjoyed the relationships I established with our tenants, my real passion was my extra-curricular activities after hours with the Jaycees.  During the years I worked as a property manager, I was as a state officer of the South Carolina Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).  During those years I served in a volunteer capacity as a state vice president, state president, and later as a National Vice President with the United States Junior Chamber.

In 1990, while president of the South Carolina Jaycees, I was asked to participate in the Marion (SC) Christmas Parade.  Melissa and I were asked to take part in a number of parades that year and we often joked about getting the wave “down”.  The slight half cocked wave to the left and then to the right to everyone who’s lining the street.  Now, we knew the reason most local folks attended parades was to see their son or daughter in the band or for a glimpse of the last float which was typically carrying the crowd favorite – Santa Clause.  But that didn’t stop the elected officials and dignitaries from eating up their moment in the sun.

After this particular parade, we were invited by the parade organizing committee to attend a special luncheon for the parade grand marshal, elected officials, and special guests at one of the local churches in town.  Typically the town and city parades are filled with your federal and state officials as well your county and local politicians.  And one thing you can count on with politicians, they never miss a parade or a chance to glad hand a few voters.  On this occasion, the Marion folks had done themselves proud and had a strong contingent of notable politicians.   There was one in particular who symbolized the essence of southern politics.  Now deceased, this individual was without question the ranking elder statesman in our state and perhaps the country.  All of the parade dignitaries were invited to a buffet lunch which again was led by the elder statesman in the group.  We filled our plates with the abundant southern delicacies of fried chicken, deviled eggs, green beans, and potato salad.  Grabbing our sweet ice tea, we all moved down the line and then dutifully followed the Senator as he travelled down the hall and right into a closet.

Parade of States - 1992

Parade of States - 1992

We were all stacking up on each other pretty good. The Senator opened the door with confidence and we all dutifully followed right behind.  It must have been quite a scene to the Church volunteers, watching all of the elected officials turning the corner and heading into a storage closet.  We all remerged with a look of embarrassment in full view of our hosts.

The thing is, when a leader demonstrates time after time their strong leadership abilities, you begin to develop a healthy trust of their instincts.  Every time that leader makes the right decision – the decision which advances the group’s common goals – he or she will become more trusted.  Confidence and trust are earned – they are not just given.   While embarrassed at the time, we later all laughed at our situation.  It has occurred to me over the years that that single error…that wrong decision – never swayed our trust in our elder statesman.  Over the next decade he continued to lead his community, his state, and his nation.  He inspired people to follow him and in the process he developed many young people to become leaders themselves.  Leaders are always moving forward – they are always going somewhere – and real leaders will develop people who follow.

A few years later I met this leader – Senator Strom Thurmond – in his office in Washington, DC.  What amazed me, he remembered me being in that parade on that particular Saturday and then he asked if I recalled our little misadventure.  I would have never brought it up.  However, the Senator laughed at his mistake.    Senator Thurmond left a huge impression on me that afternoon.  He never lost sight of his humility and he had the courage to laugh at his mistakes.  His final act was to walk me to his office door.  Just as he had personally greeted me on my arrival, instead of having one of his many aids usher me into his spacious office.  He patted me on the back and told me how proud he was of all the young men and women who were working so hard to make our communities and nation the best it could be.

Sen. Thurmond in his office - 1993

Sen. Thurmond in his office - 1993

Before I left, he asked if he could have a staff member take a photo of us together.  Weeks later when I arrived back in my office at the U.S. Junior Chamber in Tulsa, Oklahoma, there was a package from the capital.  The package contained a small gift, the picture of the two of us, and a note stating how proud he was a South Carolina boy was serving as National President of the Jaycees.

Over the years, I ran into quite a few South Carolinians who had similar stories of Senator Thurmond.  He was a leader who knew where he was going and his people followed.  More importantly, over his many decades of service, he taught generations of young people, the essence of leadership.

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , , | 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

A Remarkable Journey – Strom Thurmond

This article was written in December of 2006 following the death of U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond.

 

Last month two significant events occurred which had a profound impact on Americans and southerners in particular.  One was a dramatic Supreme Court decision ruling that racial preferences can be used for undergraduate and law school admissions.  Just a few days after the Supreme Court decision, in the little South Carolina town of Edgefield, a political giant slipped away.  Strom Thurmond left a huge footprint on American politics.  The only write-in Senate candidate ever elected, Thurmond transformed the political landscape of the south.

 

Thurmond supporters cannot defend the segregationist views of his past.  In 1957, he led a 24-hour filibuster on a civil rights bill that still ranks as the longest speech ever on the senate floor.  However, this same Senator abandoned his separatist rhetoric and in 1983 voted to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday.  In 1987, when the government was considering defunding the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, King’s widow called on Senator Thurmond.  An hour later the Senator had preserved the commission and had doubled its funding.

 

I met the Senator while I was president of the South Carolina Jaycees. Jaycee chapters organize many of South Carolina’s parades and festivals and the two of us found ourselves in outdoor events across the state.  Two years later, while President of the United States Junior Chamber, our organization was holding a Governmental Affairs program in Washington, DC.  A member of my staff called Senator Thurmond’s office to inquire whether he could coordinate a tour of the capitol for the fifty state Jaycee Presidents and my Executive Committee.  The staff member said they would check and call back.  In a few minutes, my secretary informed me Senator Strom Thurmond was on the phone.  The Senator said it would be an honor to lead the tour himself.  For nearly two hours, my state Senator took our group on a journey through time.  A journey he had made through his years of service to our state and country.strom00011

 

By now it is quite evident the pride I have of the elder statesman of my native state.  Could he have done more for civil rights when he had the opportunity?  Yes.  Could he have said, “I’m sorry for my earlier views?”  Absolutely.  But when many politicians let their words speak for their intentions, Thurmond’s actions spoke louder than the words.

Race is still used in hiring and admissions.  People of all colors practice it when they choose where to shop, where to dine,  and where to vacation.  Strom Thurmond spent seven decades in politics and while he could have done more for civil rights, he changed the way people felt about each other.  Some day because of leaders like Strom Thurmond and Martin Luther King, Jr. we will realize it’s not enough to be equal in the eyes of the law, we must be equal in the eyes of each other.  Let’s hope that day is soon.

March 26, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , | Leave a comment