Rise Up - The theme of 90th MIJC President Jay Johnson
Rise Up – The theme of 90th MIJC President Jay Johnson

Yesterday, I was given the honor of speaking at the Michigan Jaycee Fellowship Breakfast (part of the February Year-End Conference/Convention/Thing).  Membership Steve Pickelmann is in charge of this event and he asked me to speak about the strength that the fellowship of our organization provides.  Considering I didn’t write my remarks until 4 or 5 AM, (I really can’t remember since the Saturday night party is a bit of a blur), I hope that what I said was clear enough and accomplished the mission that Pickel gave me.  Here it is:

This morning, Pickel wanted me to touch upon the subject of fellowship.  He wants to explore the idea and get to what the opportunities and the meaning of what fellowship means in our wonderful organization.  You know, that part of our Creed that says “the fellowship of man transcends the sovereignty of nations.”  Sounds like a good idea, especially after enjoying a great convention/conference/dance thing.

I’m proud to tell you that I’m 40 years old and in 31 days I’m gonna be 41 (God willing).  I’ve been a Jaycee for 14 years.  I can tell you stories upon stories about, in my hundreds of thousands of miles of travel in the car formerly known as Jetta Force One (may she rest in peace) throughout the Great Lakes State, times where I’ve been helped with flat tires and dead batteries.  How I’ve joined friends for a Bruce Springsteen concert, followed up by the wonderment that is a Wrestlemania Pay Per View at someone’s home in the Dirty.  I could try to tell you of friends who tried their best to hold my hair out of the way after a long night of shenanigans at a hotel in Boyne.

And in Midland

And in Bay City

And that one time in Lansing.

And Battle Creek

Yeah … I better stop there

But what really makes our fellowship the best, is that we use our fellowship to help one another … BE BETTER … and there’s not many people who can say they are a Jaycee who does that   Let me put it another way:

There are over 200,000 Jaycees throughout the world, 1,200 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 those people, you all are unique.  No one else can say they were here to witness the two new additions to the class of Martin P. Luthy winners.  No one else can say they were here to witness the three new additions to the folks who call themselves 10th Degree Jaycees.  And for those of us who were fortunately to receive a Rise Up Presidential Medallion from President Jay, there’s only 50 of us who get to wear them for the last time today, unless you’re going to the National convention in March – then you get one more chance.

At any rate and in Melissa Grecko’s case … she gets to say that she’s the first Otto President the Grand Rapids Jaycees have had in the last 2 decades.

But none of these moments, none of those awards will be the greatest moment of our lives.

That’s yet to come and that’s what President Matt meant when he said last night that he wanted us to Be Better.  That’s what he means when he asked you the question “What’s Next?”

Let me put it another way … United States President John F. Kennedy once said:

“William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage. If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred”

Does anyone know what he said next?

He said, “We choose to go to the moon.  We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard!”

Go ahead, laugh like Beavis on that last part if you want.  Yeah, Kennedy said hard.

But he also knew where he wanted this nation to go.  He knew the answer to the question “What’s Next?

So … take a moment and share with each other what how you intend to “BE BETTER” as you move onto “What’s Next“.  While you do that, I’m going to continue a tradition of mine and play a song that may help you with that answer.  The song I’ll play is “Days Goes By” which was the song of a wonderful man and someone I know is looking down on us from Heaven today … a guy by the name of Bob Peacock, our 81st President who used this song to help us figure out where we go from here.  I think this song will help us figure it out as well.

I’m changing lanes
I’m talking on the phone
I’m drivin’ way to fast
And the interstate’s jammed with
Gunners like me afraid of coming in last
But somewhere in the race we run
We’re coming undone

(Chorus) Days go by
I can feel ’em flying
Like a hand out the window in the wind as the cars go by
It’s all we’ve been given
So you better start livin’ right now
‘Cause days go by

Out on the roof just the other night
I watched the world flash by
Headlights, taillights running through a river of neon signs
But somewhere in the rush I felt
We’re losing ourselves


We think about tomorrow then it slips away
We talk about forever but we’ve only got today

And the days go by
I can feel ’em flying
Like a hand out the window
As the cars go by

It’s all we’ve been given
So you better start livin’
You better start livin’
Better start livin’ right now

Cause days go by
I can feel like ’em flying
Like a hand out the window in the wind as the cars go by

It’s all we’ve been given
So you better start livin’ right now

Cause days go by
These days go by

So take ’em by the hand
They’re yours and mine
Take ’em by the hand
And live your life
Take ’em by the hand
Don’t let ’em all fly by

Come on, Come on now
Don’t you know the days go by


Ok … you’ve had some time to chat about how you’re going to Be Better … so tell the rest of us.

These are all good things. I look forward to hearing that you’ve accomplished all of this and more.  I look forward to hearing that you took the passion of our fellowship, the connection that we have to a select group of people who call themselves Jaycees, I look forward to hearing about the impact you made on your community, on the lives of the less fortunate, on the future of our organization, and I look forward to hearing you answer my question:

Michigan Jaycees … what do we do?

Now let’s wrap up today’s bacon fest with that tradition that has been handed down to us from Henry Giessenbier, from Martin P. Luthy, from Bill Otto, and let’s be led in that wonderful Creed by the 91st President of the Michigan Jaycees … Matt Sernau.

The Theme of 91st MIJC President Matt Sernau
What’s Next – The theme of 91st MIJC President Matt Sernau

Thank you Pickel, and President Jay, and President Matt for a very memorable weekend for this old Jaycee.