I wrapped up my term as the 87th President of the Michigan Jaycees last night and this is what I said in my farewell address to the greatest young persons organization in the world.
“Michigan Jaycees! What do we do?
That’s right … WE BUILD LEADERS!!!
Before I begin my remarks in full this evening, please allow me to recognize a number of people who have made, not just this weekend’s convention, but my entire term as your 87th President possible. In a way, let me introduce you to the very talented people who make up the band, by beginning with the 2011 MIJC Board of Directors. I have been so honored to serve with some of the most talented and courageous leaders in the history of our organization. It is this group of people who had the courage to tackle some very tough issues this year and they led the change that we experienced in 2011. Thank you for serving with me and for your dedication to the Jaycees and more importantly your friendship.
I want to thank a group of people, whose club I finally get to join in a few moments, the MIJC Past Presidents. 86 of you have walked these steps before me and each of you, in ways you probably don’t even realize have helped me this year. To Scott Greenlee, Gerry Boik, Mike Harris, Tim Royle, Jeffrey Paul Smith, Cindy Tomaszewski, Fay Poissant and all of the others. Whether it’s being there to help me as Luthy Judges, or providing a great example of the grace necessary to fulfill the duties of this office by having the Courage to Change, or answering a question that I might have about what our Institute is doing, or if it’s to remind me that it’s OK to believe that the Sky’s the Limit (something I didn’t forget about this time), you made it possible for me to serve as #87. Thank you for everything that you’ve done.
I want to thank my good friend Adam Bonarek and the entire PA team of Adam Nelson, Jenny Dukarski, Laura Stimpson, and Allie Gannon. You are the folks who not only had the imagination to make our convention presentations something that should be in the movies, but you had the knowledge and the courage to make it happen. Congratulations on 4 wonderful events and thank you so very much for making it happen. Oh, and Bonarek, don’t forget that the new EVP Mark Garrison is supposed to buy you your first drink now that you’re a free man and no longer beholden to me!
And friends, let’s give our production team of DJ Padre AJ and JPS another round of applause for the wonderful videos and the work they’ve done here too.
You know, while it may seem that all eyes are on the State President, there are just as many that look back at the President’s home chapter. There is a great responsibility that is placed on the shoulders of the chapter that shares the President with 42 other chapters. Sometimes, it pretty darn heroic to do so. I want to tell my Kalamazoo Jaycees, my Kazay Jays that you have been great this year. You’ve made me proud. You’ve taken care of the First Family while I’ve been away from home and I can’t thank you enough for that support. You have once again proven it true that the Jaycee Creed does indeed end with the words, “Kalamazoo Jaycees!”
Lastly, I want to thank the First Family. To Niki, Alex, Cristiana, my parents and my Mother-in-law. You have made it possible for me to spend so much time away from home, constantly traveling and missing school concerts, drum wars, basketball games, soccer games, and carnivals. Thank you for believing in my dream and I hope you know that Dad gets to come back home now and I’ll make up for all the lost time.
You know George Washington, in his Farewell Address, gave 51 pieces of advice to the nation. It took just over 50 years for the country to follow through on all of his recommendations. Now, don’t worry there are no “Golden Nuggets” tonight, I don’t have 51 pieces advice because that might the final straw that sends EVP Adam into the loony bin. I only have 3 and I expect that like Washington, it will take a few years for some of these to see your follow through but I can tell you that if you do you will have success upon success upon success in your Jaycee careers and in life.
And yes, two of these come from The West Wing.
My first piece of advice is to make sure you have a “Big Block of Cheese and Share It With Your Friends.” Early in the 1st season of The West Wing, the show shares with us the story of US President Andrew Jackson. Jackson was a man of the people and to make sure that he would always have access to the opinions and voice of the nation, he held parties from time to time in the White House that anyone could come to. During his first party, he had a 1400 pound block of cheese placed in the front foyer of the White House and had so many people who wanted to talk with him that it was gone in 2 hours. In the story was used to symbolize the openness of the White House to the American people.
“So what?”, I see some of you asking, “what’s that got to do with us?”
As I look at the 2012 class of Presidential Peeps I can already tell that you are a very talented bunch of peeps. You have lots of ideas and energy and talent. You have what it takes to be successful. But you won’t be successful of you don’t talk with your people, if you’re not responsive to your people. Over the last couple of weeks, I have a lot of people compliment me on my stewardship of the Michigan Jaycees over the last year. Thank you for giving me credit, but the successes of 2011 didn’t happen because of anything I did. All of the ideas, regardless if it was “WE BUILD LEADERS” or changing the awards program came from you. If I didn’t listen, if I didn’t seek out your thoughts, and if I didn’t bother to return your messages that had your thoughts in them I couldn’t have done a tenth of what we accomplished this year.
I’m telling you, from my first-hand experience, take the time to know your peeps, get to know those general members and ask them to tell you where they want to go. Once you do that, your job as the leaders of your chapters become a lot easier. You’ll now know what you need to do in order to Write Your Future in 2012.
The second piece of advice is something that you can call a Worthamsism. No, it’s not from The West Wing. It’s from the top of my head. Those who attend sporting events with me, especially John Badeen, Jennifer Mansfield, or my son Alex will tell you that I’m notorious for screaming my head off. I’m constantly coaching from the stands, or the couch and despite being reminded by Niki that the people on TV can’t hear me, I still get to the point where I sometimes embarrass my friends … especially Alex when I’m at one of his basketball or soccer games.
Alex often gets to hear me say, “COME ON! MOVE WITH PURPOSE!” I’ve tried to explain to him what I mean by that. It’s something that my coaches yelled at me too. The meaning is simple. When you’re on the court and you don’t have the ball, don’t just stand there expecting something to happen. You have to make it happen by moving and when you move, make sure you have a reason for where you’re going. In basketball, it’s cutting to the basket for lay-up, or it’s setting a pic so that one of your teammates can get open for a shot. No matter what you’re doing, there should be a meaning or logic behind it. And anything is better than just standing there, not moving, asking for the ball, and then get mad when you don’t get the ball.
You guys are lucky and I’m kind of jealous of you. You get one more day than I had in 2011. There are sometimes I wish I had one more day as your President because there’s always something that I’ve not done. There’s that member to recruit, there’s that phone call to make to a newspaper/radio station/TV station that will spread the word about what we do. There’s something that would help President Sarah solidify the positive changes we made in 2011. There’s always something that can be done.
365 days passes by so quickly, or in your case 366 days. Don’t waste them by doing nothing. Make sure that everything you do, every project you run, every meeting you participate in, please make it have a purpose. Do something, not for the sake of just doing it, not just to say that you’re doing something … but for the hope that what you will do will have an impact on your community, your friends, your family, your chapter, yourself. That’s where you will find, much like President Sarah said in her address earlier, the value in what it means to be a Michigan Jaycee.
My last piece of advice takes us back to The West Wing. In the same episode that brought us the Big Block of Cheese Day we hear the following question, “What will be the next thing that challenges us? That makes us go farther and work harder?” This question, rhetorical as it may be is followed up with this fact, “You know when smallpox was eradicated, it was considered the single greatest humanitarian issue of the century. Surely, we can do it again. As we did in a time when our eyes looked towards the Heavens and with outstretched fingers we touched the face of God.”
A little bit ago President Sarah touched upon the value that we experience in being a member of the Michigan Jaycees. Let me touch upon something else that has value. Our awards. This weekend we’ve given out a ton of awards and some will think that maybe we give too many. Perhaps we do. But I do feel the need to point something out to you and to do so, I need your help once again. If you are a 2011 Thomas Stark Memorial Award winner or a 2011 Martin P. Luthy Memorial Award winner, please stand up. Let’s congratulate them one more time.
There are over 200,000 Jaycees throughout the world, 1,500 or so here in the state of Michigan which is a state of about 9 million people, in a country with just about 311 million people. Of all of those people, you are unique. No one else will be able to they are a part of the 2011 class of Stark’s and Luthy’s. No one. Not even me. This makes you some of the greatest leaders in the entire country. It is a great achievement and I congratulate you. Earlier today, I gave Kristin Garstka from Farmington the Parade of Chapters Trophy, something she has been driving towards all year long, and my friend Angela Fossi from Lansing received the Overall Chapter of the 4th Quarter trophy. Watching them celebrate was a great moment and a wonderful achievement. There are other chapters who received this year’s Giessenbier Memorial Awards for being the best in their USJC Population Division. Look at them smiling now. In a few moments, I’ll announce the name of a chapter who was the Best of the Best and that’s going to be a pretty darn good moment for them. It’ll be a great achievement. There are a number of you who have received the highest honor I can give in the form of a Presidential Medallion and the view from the stage up there is a pretty great moment to be in.
Here’s the thing. None of those moments will be the greatest moment of your life. That’s still to come. There’s still something in each of you that is going to make you go farther than this moment. That’s the value of our awards. Yes, it’s to celebrate the achievement and this moment, but it’s also to remind us that there’s more out there.
What that is? Well that’s up to you. That’s defined by you and no one else. It could be to get a piece of bling, or to design the next piece of bling. It could be to get elected to your local City Council, or to find a way to stand up on that stage as the person in charge. In Kristin’s case, it could be to work towards World Domination. I will tell you, Ms. Garstka, that you should talk to our friend Scott Greenlee who has held the title of World President before … I’m sure he has some good tips on how to get there. For me, it’s going to be in the next couple of years from now when I see, my friend Fay earn the title USJC President. She deserves that because there’s no one around country who is more qualified than her to serve in that role.
Never stop asking yourself, “What’s next” because that is the only question, at the end of the day, which matters. That question will keep you from being stuck in the past, reliving your Glory Days. That question will keep you moving forward.
Let me end with my deepest wish for you at this moment. I know that not everyone here believes in a higher power, but I do. I love the fact that our organization is one where diverse opinions can be shared in the bond of fellowship. I believe in God. I have for 32 of my 37 years on this planet. And my wish for you as I come to the end of my term is that Almighty God, whomever or whatever that means or doesn’t mean for you, I ask that He bless and keep you. I ask that He shine His countenance, His peace, His light and warmth around you, and that He protect you in your journey from this moment forward until we get to what’s next.
God Bless you all and God Bless the Michigan Jaycees.”