Russell’s Ramblings

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

Every Picture tells a story

Lake Norman Chamber Candidate Forum

It seems as if the last few weeks have been nothing but a flurry of political activity.  The first week of September, the Charlotte region hosted the Democratic National Convention.  Later that week, a delegation from the Chamber and Visit Lake Norman made our annual trip to Washington DC to meet with our federal delegation and to attend the N.C. Business and Economic Development Summit with members of the North Carolina Congressional Delegation and Senate.

These past two weeks we have held two candidate forums featuring our candidates for United States House District #9, Mecklenburg County at large and District #1, and the new N.C. House Seat District #92.

 A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Kristy Etheridge from WBTV who asked did our businesses see much of an impact from the DNC?  I told Kristy that months ago, we cautioned area retailers and hospitality businesses from being overly optimistic that delegate spending would be a “silver bullet” for our local economy. 

In speaking to some local business owners both here and in Charlotte, as well as DNC vendors, sales were for the most part disappointing.  While our hotel industry did quite well, some retailers in Charlotte were actually hurt in that regular customers and clients did not patronize the businesses during the DNC.

The real strength of the DNC was its ability to showcase our area to not only the nation, but the eyes of the world.  A political event of that nature is perhaps second only to the Olympics in terms of international exposure.  Media coverage, as well as national and international awareness, focused on the Charlotte and Lake markets.

Before the gavel sounded at Time Warner Arena, our Chamber had already been contacted by a Senior Producer with RTL Netherlands, a television news organization, on giving our perspective on the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care act (Obama care).  Their producer had seen the media coverage of our August Focus Friday on the subject.

Perhaps Vinay Patel, whose company SREE  owns Marriott’s Courtyard and Residence Inn in Huntersville, summed it up best at this month’s Visit Lake Norman Board meeting when he pointed out the DNC proved to the world Charlotte is no longer a second-tier city when it comes to hosting an event. 

Tom Coderre and Bill Russell

While I did not have a chance to attend any of the official DNC, I did tour the facility and had a chance to have dinner with a close friend I had not seen in over a decade.  Tom Coderre, the Chief of Staff to the Rhode Island Senate President and a former State Senator himself, attended the DNC as a delegate.

Tom was a National Vice President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) in 1992-1993 when I was the National President.  One of the youngest NVP’s to ever serve the Jaycees, he was assigned to many of the larger states like Texas and Kansas.  In the beginning, some of the Jaycee leaders from those states could not imagine such a young man from such a small state could be that much of a resource. However, Tom soon proved true the adage “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”  Among the ten National Vice Presidents, Tom was recognized at our Annual Meeting in Greensboro as the Most Outstanding National Vice President and received the coveted  Don Cavelli Memorial Award.

Tom and I avoided most of the political issues of the day and focused on what we were doing with our professional careers.  However, before we went our own ways he introduced me to other delegates from Rhode Island including his Mayor from the City of Providence – Angel Taveras, and I had the chance to meet delegates from Maryland.

One by one, they each told me how much they were enjoying Charlotte and the region. “Charlotte is a beautiful city,” one remarked and when I identified myself from Lake Norman, another commented, “Oh, I was there yesterday – spectacular!”

Travelling back home in my convertible that night, an old Rod Stewart song came on the radio.  I listened to the refrain of the familiar song I had heard so many times before… “So remember, every picture tells a story don’t it”     In this case… I couldn’t agree more!

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October 12, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dare to be Strange” – Lesson #5 in the lessons I have learned along the way

Wally Owings, Former US Jaycees NVP

The following article is lesson #5 in lessons I have learned along the way…

More than two decades ago, I met an accountant who had a slightly different twist on the phrase “Dare to be different.”  Wally Owings was serving as a National Vice President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce from Virginia assigned to my home state of South Carolina.  Owings met with the local presidents and state officers from South Carolina’s largest young people’s organization and encouraged us to get out of our comfort zones.

Nearly all of us were familiar with “thinking outside of the box” but Wally took it the extreme.  He said as leaders we were all likely comfortable with leadership and daring to be different.  But it wasn’t enough to be different – we had to dare to be strange.  You cannot be afraid of having people think you are odd or peculiar if you’re going to push people past limitations they impose on themselves, often accepting the status quo.

Owings shared a story he had read about Walt Disney when Disney was a young fifth grader.  The teacher assigned students in his classroom to color a flower garden.  As the teacher walked down the rows observing all the students carefully coloring in the lines with bright bold colors, she stopped by young Walt’s desk.  The teacher noted that all his drawings were quite unusual – actually strange.   Picking up one of his drawings, she remarked, “Walt, your picture is all wrong.  Flowers don’t have faces on them.”Walt looked back at the teacher and confidently said, “Mine do!” and continued busily finishing his task.   Have you been to Disneyland or Walt Disney World lately?  If you have, you’ll see all the flowers still have faces.

This past January we recognized former Cornelius Mayor Nannie Potts with the Chamber Diversity Council’s first Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the community and region bringing people of all races and backgrounds together.  Ms. Potts, an African-American, participated in the sit-ins at the Woolworth Department Store in Statesville, similar to those taking place during the civil rights struggle of the early 1960’s.

Nannie Potts receiving an award from Commissioner Bentley

The actions of those engaged citizens were looked at by some as more than strange, in their view it was an act of defiance.  However, Potts and those that joined her that day saw a wrong and they attempted to right it.  Leadership is getting people from where they are to where they have not been.  According to, Owings,  “It’s often doing the scary and uncomfortable.  We worry too much about what others think but they are not prepared to go where we are moving.  Leadership is lonely by definition.”  Wally summed it up to us young business leaders two decades ago, “You just have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable – that’s as strange as it gets.”

Some people saw the actions of Wally Owings, Nannie Potts and Walt Disney as strange.  However, they saw the world around them and did more than dare to be different.  They pushed the envelope, dared to see the world differently than it was, and accepted nothing less than their very best.

July 5, 2011 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

As you go about your job today – ask yourself what kind of business are you in?

Dorothy Hamill and Bill Russell at the 1992 Healthy American Fitness Leaders Conference

A few weeks ago, Hilary Broadway, our Public Policy Chairman and a local realtor with Allen Tate Realty was sharing a book she really enjoyed – “Positively Outrageous Service” by Scott Gross.  Hilary stated that one of the great take aways of the book is that real “POS” is random and unexpected.  The element of surprise is part of its power.     Listening to Hilary share some of the branding and customer service tips from the book, I could not help but reflect on an incident in my life that made an indelible impression on me.

In 1992, I was serving as President of the United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) and had been asked to co-emcee the Healthy American Fitness Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia with Dorothy Hamill, 1976 Olympic Champion.  Our Keynote Speaker for the event was Arnold  Schwarzenegger.    It was a real delight to be on the stage with Dorothy and another  thrill was working out with Armold the next morning.

My wife Melissa & I with Arnold

Only problem was Arnold and the hundred or so fitness leaders in the room were a great deal more commited than I was.  I dressed in my sweats, thanked the people in the room for the difference they were making in their communities and went to breakfast.  Leaving Arnold with all the fitness zealots, I told him, “Unlike you – I won’t be back….”  Nearly twenty years later, my exercise routine still lacks commitment, always taking a backseat to a warm Krispey Kreme donut and a cup of coffee. 

I was flying in from a speaking engagement in Minnesota and our staff at the Junior Chamber had me booked on the last available flight leaving Minnesota that would get me into Atlanta just in time to change and then attend the banquet.   This particular flight out of Minnesota was delayed because of heavy inclement weather, delaying our flight and in the process impairing my ability to catch my connection.     The moment we touched down, I was running full throttle through the terminal, dashing madly to my gate, only to find the flight attendant shutting the door.  Out of breath, I managed to state I needed to get on the flight.  The attendant shot back that I could hardly expect to get there at boarding time and catch my flight.

I explained the situation, indicating who I was, and what I was going to be doing, and then emphasized that was the very last flight that would get me where I needed to go.    The attendant merely looked at me and told me she was sorry.   The flight was already departing and she would get me on the next available flight.  To say I was upset would be putting it mildly.

 In the meantime, a young man had been standing behind   the counter listening to our exchange.  He asked for my ticket, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “Mr. Russell, I heard your situation.  We’re gonna’ get you on that plane.” I watched as the plane backed back up to the gate and they had me take the first available seat.    To this day, I remember taking a seat by the window.  Looking out, I could see back to the terminal gate and in the window I saw the gentleman that helped me.  Dressed in his blue suit, the tiny lock of black hair dangling gently on his forehead, the red cape flowing in the breeze, and the big yellow “S” on his chest.

Well, maybe he wasn’t really Superman.  But he saved my day and what I thought about that airline and whether I would ever fly them again might have depended on his actions that day.    But one thing was for sure – the flight attendant – she was in the airlines business.  The gentleman that got me on that plane, he was in the “people business”.  He knew about Positively Outrageous Service before there was a term for it.

As you go about your day at the lake, working to grow your business, you need to ask yourself  one question – what business are you in?

November 4, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , | Leave a comment

McDonald’s isn’t a hap, hap, happy place for the Food Gestapo

Ronald

To paraphrase the words of Ronald Wilson Reagan, “There they go again!”  Whether it’s the speech police or the antics of the Health Gestapo, the fast food fringe fanatics are winding up their little hysteria and this time have their sights set on none other than Ronald McDonald.  Yep, the loveable red haired clown has become Public Enemy #1 by the self appointed purveyors of public health.   Last week, representatives from the advocacy group Corporate Accountability International attended a shareholder’s meeting for McDonalds, and requested that poor Ronald be given his honorary gold watch.  They weren’t real sure how to package the golden arches. David Klinger, a retired Chicago physician represented the left winged loonies proclaiming “Ronald McDonald is a pied piper drawing youngsters all over the world to food that is high in fat, sodium, and calories.”

Kid you not!  I almost strangled on my Krispy Kreme donut reading this drivel in the newspaper. Klinger added, “On the surface Ronald is there to give children enjoyment in all sorts of way with toys, games, and food.  But Ronald McDonald is dangerous, sending insidious messages to young people.”   You have to be kidding me!  I think Klinger and his battalion of bumpkins might actually be the dangerous ones.  I’m not sure if this dudes’ any relation to the MASH Klinger or not but he’s certainly well on his way to his own section eight.

Mr. Clean

I didn’t say anything when the urban legend got started about Mr. Clean.  I figure any guy running around dressed in all white sporting an earring in his left ear is probably asking for it. Nor did I shed a tear when the Health Gestapo went after Joe Camel and strung up his buddy the Marlboro Man.   Although I did get a little annoyed when they questioned whether the Lucky Charms elf really had magical powers. Certainly he does and his little charms are magically delicious – we all know that!

But I draw the line in the mustard when they go after Ronald.  Ronald McDonald is not just a fast food mascot or a nifty little branding icon.  To many children throughout the world, he is a symbol of hope when many face a world seemingly filled with hopelessness. His house, any Ronald McDonald House, is a place where the parents of children in a nearby hospital can stay for a reduced price or even a small donation.

In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility conducted by Nye Lavalle & Associates.  The study showed that Ronald McDonald House was ranked as the 2nd “most popular charity/non-profit in America” of over 100 charities researched.
When I was president of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) in 1992-1993, the Ronald McDonald House was one of the leading projects for which our Junior Chamber Chapters conducted fund raising projects.  Jaycees were, and still are, enthusiastic about raising funds for a charity in which 83 cents of every dollar is spent to fund programs globally. For nearly 35 years, Ronald McDonald House Charities have been creating, funding, and supporting programs that directly improve the health and well being of nearly four million children worldwide every year.

Last week, McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner told the corporate accountability group to get a life. Well, maybe he didn’t say it in quite those terms.  But he did state when confronted by Klinger and his merry little band of dumb dwiddles, would McDonalds retire the 50-year old clown, “The answer is no.”  Good for you Skinner!   It’s time Corporate America stood up to these fringe groups. If I want to “Biggie Size it” get off my back. Quit trying to remove the calories from my Breyers Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream and lay off Tony the Tiger.   Better yet, take your greedy paws off my trans fats! Personally I think the whole world would be better with a little sweet iced tea, barbecue pork, and a few hush puppies on the side. Oh, and bring on the ‘nanna puddin’.

Now that I can rest easy that the world is again tilted back on its axis and the curmudgeons of crazy town are scampering back to the mushrooms from which they hide, I can get back to my rendezvous with Little Debbie.  We have a standing date every night at ten. And baby can she bake a mean oatmeal cake!

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Social Causes | , , , , | 1 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

73rd Annual Meeting Presidential Address

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outstanding State Presidents

Outstanding State Presidents

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

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

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

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

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

Rock Hill Jaycees - The Traveling Animals

Rock Hill Jaycees - The Traveling Animals

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

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

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

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

JOTS Closing Ceremony – July 18, 1992

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

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

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

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

Music up: Springsteen – Born in the USA

May 4, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake Up America Speech – August – November, 1992

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawaii Jaycee Membership Night

Hawaii Jaycee Membership Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 3, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Address to the 73rd Annual United States Junior Chamber of Commerce Meeting Delegates

Address to the 73rd Annual Meeting Delegates
United States Junior Chamber of Commerce
Wednesday, June 16, 1993
Greensboro, NC

This speech was given during the annual business meeting of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce by National President Bill Russell asking the delegates to approve a $5 dues increase per member, an alumni membership, and a blue ribbon commission to create a plan for the future of the organization.  All three initiatives were approved later that day.

Delegates to the 73rd annual meeting, there is a word that keeps popping up time and again when we talk about the Junior Chamber and that word is leadership.  You have heard it this year.  I hope you come to understand it better.  Leadership is our chance to create a stronger organization.  An organization that will be there for your children and your children’s children.

delegatesYou can define leadership many different ways but in the Junior Chamber we know leadership is the key to everything else we do.  Without leadership, we become just another fundraising organization like so many other groups out there.  We lose our credibility, we lose our history, and we cut our roots.  While community service is the best work of life, we must not lose sight that our community development projects are just one slice of that work. The entire pie is created with leadership as the pan that holds it all together.  Leadership that understands where it is going and how to get there.

Jaycees, we have an obligation to prepare for the future.  Today we have that opportunity.  The opportunity to return our organization to financial stability, to tap resources previously turned away, and to create and implement a plan for the future.  I am asking for your support of the much needed dues increase, our alumni membership, and the proposed blue ribbon commission.blue-ribbon0001

Robert F. Kennedy, a young person who left us 25 years ago this month said, “Progress is a nice word but change is its motivator and change has its enemies.”  I believe in the American Dream because I believe in Jaycees.  You and I stand on the threshold of a new America…a new Junior Chamber…and America and a Junior Chamber filled with opportunity, challenges, and change.

Let us not be enemies of change.  The progress we seek in the Jaycees is not for personal gain, influence, or power.  It is change for our organization.  It is changing our way of thinking…thinking of leadership training and preparing our members to go out in their communities and lead.  It is change that is required if we are as a viable organization are to once again obtain our position of national prominence.  And its change we must have if we are to continue to call ourselves the organization of choice for today’s young people.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King stood at a podium in the deep south and reflected on where the civil rights movement was going when he said, “The measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at the times of challenges and controversy.”  I ask you today….where do you stand?  I stand on the side of change.

Change not for the sake of doing something different, but progressive, enlightened change. Change that will make our organization strong…and remain strong…year after year, in chapter after chapter.  It is taking a leadership stand.  Let us all stand against mediocrity. Let us take a stand against the status quo and business as usual.  Let us go somewhere we have not been.

Let us today…in this moment in time…go somewhere…we have not been.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment