Russell’s Ramblings

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

Jaycee National President Bill Russell Remarks Portland Oregon – 1992

Inaugural Address Closing Ceremony
72nd Annual Convention Unites States Junior Chamber of Commerce
Portland, Oregon
June 25, 1992

Junior Chamber International President Herrberando, Junior Chamber President & First Lady Thomes, Fellow Members of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors, JCI Vice President Yoshida, Past National Presidents, our Good Friends from the Japan Junior Chamber, Ambassadors, Senators, Jaycee Delegates, and guests:

This organization has been filled by generations of young people, each with the challenges of their day.  It was through commitment and courage that we as an organization have stood the test of time.  Challenges have always faced us…they did yesterday and they will tomorrow.  Like the past generations of Jaycees, we embrace those opportunities…and not one Jaycee member out there tonight … would shrink from that responsibility.

We will meet them head on.  Together!  Like Plato once said, “The beginning is the most important part of any work.”  Tonight we embark on a new beginning… a new Jaycee year.  There is a new world facing us out there.  It is a world filled with discovery and promise.  It is a world that we can use to unlock the potential of America’s young people.

Sworn in by 72nd USJCC President Greg Thomes

Sworn in by 72nd USJCC President Greg Thomes

Our future is unstructured as a dream.  The only limitations we have are those we impose upon ourselves. Someone once said that the world changes at such a pace, that each day writes a fresh page of history before yesterday’s ink has even dried.  Today, the task at hand is simple – the Junior Chamber of Commerce must lead again.  As it always has – as only we can.  It is time to write history.  Not content to merely be a part of it.

June 30, 1971 an amendment to the constitution was ratified giving 18 year olds a right to vote.  Young people making decisions about the future direction of their nation.  This is the 21st anniversary of that amendment.  Throughout America, people are disillusioned about their government leaders.  They are desperate for leadership.  However, our country has always survived and leaders have always emerged.  It is time for that leadership to emerge again…  It is time America felt the power of her young people.power0001

It falls to our young people to lead this nation…to restore her.  This year our Jaycee Chapters will register voters, sponsor candidate debates, and get the issues out to the communities through a program called “Wake Up America!”   We will again be young people of action.

Over the last couple of decades there has been a decline of family values.  Times are different from when you and I were in grade school.  Teachers have been replaced by TV’s and VCR’s.  Kids learn more from Doogie Howser and Bart Simpson than they do from mom and dad.  This year the United States Junior Chamber will answer the needs of our single parents and young families through a program called Junior Jaycees.  Getting our kids, young kids involved… instilling in them the values we cherish as Jaycees.

wake0001Over the past few years we have placed more emphasis on short term goals and rewarded people for short term success.  People are recognized for what they do this year with no consequences to what becomes of their chapter next year.  Our Blue Chip program is the key to chapter success.  Long term goals and the commitment to carry them out.  We must not sell ourselves out to short term success.  We must stop living for today with no plans for tomorrow.

Most of all – we cannot and will not settle for mediocrity. We must build a strong Junior Chamber chapter – one that is better today than it was yesterday.  Continuing to fulfill our mission of providing leadership skills to America’s young people.  We are a leadership training organization and it’s time we got down to the business at hand.  Teaching young people the skills they will need to be more productive and competitive in the business world.  Give them the chance to nurture networking skills, meeting other young people, fostering strong relationships, building bridges to the future.

The number one reason people leave our organization prematurely is because we do not deliver on our promise.  People leave feeling they have not received what they were looking for and they walk away…empty handed.  We must train our chapters to deliver on those promises…today.

It is time the United States Junior Chamber came out of its isolation and joined the Junior Chamber organizations of the world.  Junior Chamber International is growing, prospering, and delivering on its promise of leadership training through community service.  It uses the principles of those young men from St. Louis, Mo. whose dream it was to give young people business and community leadership opportunities.  I am asking each of you, if your chapter is not already, consider twinning up with another Jaycee Chapter in another country.  We can learn so much from each other as we move to an age of Global Citizenship.

There is the story of the great French General Lyautey who once asked his gardener to plant a tree.  The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for hundreds of years.  The Marshall replied, “In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.”

We are faced with unbridled opportunities – let us embrace them.  The affects of our programs may take months, years to see…but let us plant the seed tonight.  Jaycees…Founder and Past President Henry Giessenbier said, “In your hands lies the destiny of a great organization.  Let us build it to national prominence and let us not fail in that task.”

United States Jaycees, I believe in you with all my heart and all my soul.  Let us prove this year, we are the premier young people’s organization in America…and let us not fail in that task.  Thank you.

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April 29, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , , , , | 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

Taking Risks – Lessons from a Traveler

There’s a story about a traveler who was passing through a small rural town.  As he entered the town he saw a billboard.  On the white portion someone had drawn a target and right through the middle of the target was a shot through the bullseye.  He went down the road a bit and there was a wide magnolia tree with a target on it, and right through the middle of the target, he saw another arrow in the bullseye.  All over town…bullseyes. He thought to himself, “Somewhere in this town is one heck of a marksman and I’m going to find him.” 

By asking questions he finally did find him but it turns out the marksman was the village idiot.  The traveler said, “Sir you have a great gift.   No matter what they say about you…you have developed a unique skill.  Tell me, how did you get to be such a proficient marksman with the bow?”  The man answered, “Nothing to it.  First you shoot and then you draw the target!”

 That certainly takes out all the risk.  We are a nation that is sometimes scared to take the risk. Even though this country was founded upon the principle of taking risks.  We agree our health care, education system, and social security all needs to be reformed.  Yet, each election cycle we hear all the promises and each congress ends their term with little having been done.  On a more personal note, sometimes we’re all afraid of going out on the limb…reaching outside our own comfort zones.  Many of us equate taking risks to failures.  Failure will indeed confront all of us at some time or the other, particularly if we take risks.  I’m not talking about foolish or silly risks with dire consequences, but rather calculated risk – risks that are worth taking.

I remember the first time I ran for president of my local Jaycee Chapter in Rock Hill.  I lost.  Imagine if I had never ran again.  I would not have become state or national president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and perhaps would not be in my vocation today.

1992 Campaign for National Jaycee President

1992 Campaign for National Jaycee President

 

 

Did you know Thomas Edison was thrown out of school in the early grades when teachers assumed he couldn’t do the work?  When Bob Dylan performed at a high school talent show, he was booed off the stage by his classmates.  Henry Ford forgot to put a reverse in the first car he manufactured.  A newspaper owner told Walt Disney to pursue another line of work, “You don’t have any creative, original ideas.”  All of these are instances where people took a risk, failed, and tried again.

 

Are we willing to take a risk for something we believe in?  Many would rather draw the target after they shoot and play it safe.  Personally, I’ll take a swing at it every time.  I say reach for the stars and even if you just clear the tree tops- you’ve left the ground and touched the sky!  It’s worth the risk.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beating the Odds

In 1993, as President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), I stood on stage in Tulsa, OK. recognizing the Ten Outstanding Young Americans.  The Jaycee’s TOYA program recognizes the best and brightest young people in America between the ages of 21 to 39 inclusively.  Standing on stage that night, I met a young man who demonstrated the qualities that set him apart from his peers.  John Foppe was born without arms.  John, 22 at the time, said on the stage that night, “Either God created me without arms or he created the will within me to deal with it and adapt.”  Adapt he did! 

John Foppe

John Foppe

When I met John, he was sitting on the floor behind the stage signing autographs with his feet.  Later that night, when I made a toast to our recipients, John picked up his glass of champagne with his toes, hoisted it to his mouth, taking a sip without spilling a drop.

 

John was recognized by the Junior Chamber for his humanitarian efforts.  While in high school he started the John P. Foppe Seminars and began an ambitious public speaking tour.  Proceeds from his events were donated to a Haitian orphanage.  When I met John he worked for Zig Ziglar as a motivational speaker and was recognized by Ziglar in the book Over the Top!

I watched John as he walked around the room that evening spreading encouragement and enthusiasm.  John said he looked at his limitations as opportunities.  Because of his handicap, he adapted and developed in other areas which could best serve him.

 

Today, our lake community and business leaders face opportunities brought on by this present economic challenge.  Companies and businesses face threats not seen in many of our lifetimes.  What we must remember, there is a correction with every economic cycle, and this too shall pass.  We are already seeing some very positive indicators which may point to our rise back up from this current downturn.

 

There has been strong participation in the Chamber’s many seminars, programs, and networking events.  Many businesses have taken advantage of the free counseling opportunities provided by SCORE and the SBA and will emerge from this situation a much stronger business.

 

John Foppe had every reason not to succeed in life.  He chose to meet the challenges head on and make something special of himself.  The things we take for granted have come hard for John.  On the stage that night, with tears in his eyes, he thanked God for the life he has and the success his challenges have brought him.

 

We should all keep in mind that the strongest steel is forged by the hottest fire.  It is through our many trials and mistakes that we learn and we grow.  We must live each day, adapting to the challenges we face, giving our absolute best…and like John, refuse to settle for nothing less.

 

April 5, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye to the Gipper

This article, written in 2004, appeared in the Lake Norman Chamber newsletter.

 Last month, June, marked an anniversary in my life.  It was a dozen years ago that a small town boy from Rock Hill, South Carolina was elected president of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).  Many of you are probably familiar with the Jaycees.  However, for those of you who may not be – the Junior Chamber is a civic organization for young people in more than 100 countries with 200,000 members worldwide in 6,000 communities.

 In 1992, I was elected National President in Portland, Oregon.  It was a closely contested election running against a Jaycee from Arkansas and another from North Carolina.  While the election was a moment to remember, perhaps my real thrill was meeting the keynote speaker of the convention that year – Ronald Wilson Reagan.  While Reagan was four years removed from office, he still carried the confidence and charisma that people remembered fondly last month.reagan00011

As the incoming national president, I had the opportunity to meet with him firsthand, sharing lunch in a very informal setting.  Reagan captivated our group with stories and anecdotes of his days in the movies and in public office.

In our encounter, he retold a story I’m sure he used on many occasions about the farmer and the attorney.  As his story went, a farmer in an old pickup truck and an attorney in his sports car collided on a back country road.  Immediately after the collision, the farmer leaped from the truck and asked how the attorney felt.  The attorney, woozy from the collision, was a bit shaken.  So the farmer reached behind the seat of his truck and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.

 “Here, take a swig of this, it’ll make you feel better,” said the farmer.  The attorney agreed he felt a bit better.  The farmer encouraged another sip, and then another, until the attorney felt pretty darn good.  The attorney, feeling pretty spry now, thanked the farmer for his kindness and inquired if he wanted the last little bit from the bottle.  The farmer, with a grin on his face, said, “Nah…I’ll wait till after the state trooper arrives.”

The ancient Greeks believed that character was formed in part by fate and in part by parental training, and that character was exemplified not only by acts of bravery in battle but in the habits of daily conduct.  In our brief meeting I was captured by Reagan’s charisma.  His optimism, drive, and spirit made a profound impact on me as I began my year as national president.  Our theme “Wake Up America!” encouraged young people to get involved in their communities – take part in the political debate regardless of their partisan affiliation.

Last month, Reagan’s death hung heavy on my heart.  I felt like I was reliving the death of my grandfather who shaped so many of my views and beliefs.  Both were men of character, simple and down to earth men, who seemed to understand themselves and focused on their objectives.  They were men of character from a time when character was held in higher esteem than it seems to be today.  A time when character was king.  There will be debate about Reagan’s legacy.  Some will praise him and others will say he fell short. 

I know how he made me feel about my community and my country.  And that’s his legacy to me.  Thank you Gipper.
Addressing the U.S. Junior Chamber 1992

Addressing the U.S. Junior Chamber 1992

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