Stand and Deliver ~ As you have heard already, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this year's Leadership Maine course. One of the assignments in this course is to do a "Stand and Deliver" presentation where you share your personal and professional vision with the class. I had the honor of presenting during opening weekend. As I have come to know this region, and represent such a vibrant and energetic membership, I decided to share my vision with you through this week's blog. Here goes.
By all accounts I have had a pretty good life. I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and although my parents divorced when I was young, my memory is full of Norman Rockwell style images. Caroling at Christmas, playing kick the can until dark and knowing every face at my local church. That's the kind of community I grew up in.
I joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school. For those of you who are not familiar, the Navy puts significant emphasis on community service. So much in fact, that when you receive your annual evaluation, you are actually graded on your level of community service involvement. When I was a junior enlisted sailor, I had a Chief Petty Officer drag me out to a community clean-up day. I recall grumbling under my breath about having to clean up someone else's park. Something along the lines of "this stinks" and "why do I have to?" etc... the Chief, in classic Navy style, replied "Because knucklehead, if we don't, who will?"
When I retired from the service, my wife and I made a very conscious decision to stay in Maine. We had opportunities in other places such as Washington D.C. and decided not to go. It was a tough decision, but we simply love this state and wanted to continue to be Mainers. After retirement, I began to take stock in the community I live in, Lisbon, Maine. Lisbon had a closed mill, several empty storefronts and a challenging self-image. Looking for ways to get involved, I tried to connect with the folks who were making a difference in Lisbon and came up empty. The volunteers had all burned out over the years and gone home. That was when I heard the Chief in my head say, "Hey Knucklehead, if you don't fix this, who will?"
The problems we faced in Lisbon are certainly not unique to that town. Communities throughout Maine are facing declining resources, vacant stores and struggling families. People in today's society are more likely to have dual incomes and limited leisure time - we seem to go home from work and stay indoors. While we do, our communities wither on the vine.
My personal and professional vision is simple. I will not pass my town to my children without doing everything I can to make a difference. I am thrilled that my new position affords me the opportunity to make a difference in an entire region. My challenge to you this week is also simple. This blog reaches close to 1700 people via email and another 1300 via social media. Imagine the effect we could have if each one of you decided to give an hour a month to your community. Imagine further if you shared this with your friends on social media and they stepped up? After all knucklehead, if we don't fix it, who will?