This is the text of the speech I presented at the induction ceremony of the Sigma Alpha Pi honorary society on Sunday, May 6 at Park University in Parkville, MO. Sorry about the all caps--it's just my style when writing speeches.



"SINCE YOU’RE ALL IN SIGMA ALPHA PI—THE NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR LEADERSHIP—AND I’M NOT, I’M HOPING YOU CAN HELP ME FIGURE OUT A THING OR TWO THIS AFTERNOON… A GOOD PLACE TO START WOULD BE DISCOVERING WHAT LEADERSHIP REALLY IS. I’VE BEEN DOING SOME READING ON THE SUBJECT, BUT MUST CONFESS THAT THIS HASN’T HELPED ME GET A GRASP ON WHAT LEADERS REALLY ARE…. HERE ARE SOME QUOTES I DRUMMED UP…

1950’S POLITICIAN ADLAI STEVENSON SAID OF LEADERSHIP, “It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse”….

THE GREAT BASEBALL MANAGER CASEY STENGEL SAID, “The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided”… I’M HOPING THAT YOU WILL ALL BE, AT MINIMUM, UNDECIDED ABOUT ME AFTER THIS SPEECH….

COMEDIAN GROUCHO MARX FAMOUSLY NOTED THAT “Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men -- the other 999 follow women” …

LEWIS GRIZZARD SAID OF THOSE WHO WILL LEAD, “Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes”.

FINALLY, ESSAYIST DAVE BARRY MAY HAVE SAID IT BEST WHEN HE WROTE, “When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that person is crazy. “

I THINK IT PROBABLY DOES TAKE A SPECIAL KIND OF PERSON TO LEAD—AND MAYBE JUST A TOUCH OF THE CRAZINESS THAT DAVE BARRY MENTIONS. PERHAPS IF WE CAN’T FIGURE OUT EXACTLY WHAT A LEADER IS, WE CAN STILL GET A BETTER GRIP ON WHAT A LEADER DOES. I THINK MOST OF US, WHEN ASKED TO NAME A LEADER, WOULD NAME A POLITICIAN OR PERHAPS A BUSINESS PERSON. THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE…EXCEPT FOR MAYBE THE POLITICIANS…AND I SUPPOSE SOME WOULD CONSIDER THEM LEADERS.

HOWEVER, SINCE YOU ARE ALL SIGMA ALPHA PI, MAYBE YOU CAN HELP ME CONFIRM AN IDEA I HAVE ABOUT LEADERSHIP…. OR MAYBE MORE PRECISELY, WHAT LEADERSHIP ISN’T. I THINK LEADERSHIP ISN’T ABOUT ANYTHING SELF-SERVING…. THUS, MY IDEA IS THAT A REAL LEADER DOESN’T SEEK LEADERSHIP TO MAKE HIMSELF OR HERSELF RICH OR FAMOUS… A REAL LEADER DOESN’T WANT HIS FACE ON A BILLBOARD, OR THREE YACHTS AND A CONDO IN THE BAHAMAS, OR THE EGO-FEEDING RUSH OF HAVING A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE APPLAUD AND CHANT HIS NAME… A REAL LEADER DOESN’T WANT TO STAR IN A REALITY TV SHOW. SORRY, KARDASHIANS…

SO IF WE KNOW WHAT A REAL LEADER ISN’T, THEN WHAT IS A REAL LEADER? I GOOGLED ‘DEFINE LEADERSHIP’, AND GOT 53 MILLION HITS… I DIDN’T MUCH LIKE THE DEFINITIONS I GOT, WHICH WERE MOSTLY ABOUT GUIDING OR DIRECTING A GROUP. I SUPPOSE THIS IS FINE ON PAPER, BUT I’D LIKE MORE OUT OF MY LEADERS…. WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR IN A LEADER IS SOMEONE WHO PUTS SERVICE TO OTHERS AND TO THEIR COMMUNITIES ABOVE THEIR OWN SELFISH INTERESTS. REAL LEADERS CAN AND DO SERVE IN A NUMBER OF WAYS, BUT I ADMIRE MOST THOSE WHO SERVE IN THE CAUSE OF PEACE.

IN MY MIND, BECOMING LEADERS FOR PEACE IS THE BEST APPLICATION OF THE ABILITIES THAT STUDENTS LIKE YOU POSSESS. THOSE CHARACTERISTICS INCLUDE…

1. INTEGRITY… WHAT BETTER WAY TO DEMONSTRATE YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL INTEGRITY BY SERVING THE CAUSE OF PEACE?

2. DEDICATION… HARD WORK AND PERSERVERENCE ARE ADMIRED AND RESPECTED BY ALL IN ANY FIELD, BUT ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO PEACE.

3. HUMILITY…SERVING OTHERS FIRST MEANS THAT YOU AND YOUR EGO TAKE A BACK SEAT…

4. ASSERTIVENESS …WHEN YOU ARE ASSERTIVE IN ADDRESSING YOUR OWN NEEDS, YOU MAY RIGHTLY BE ACCUSED OF SELFISHNESS. WHEN YOU ARE ASSERTIVE IN HELPING SECURE PEACE, AND IN SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS THAT PROMOTE PEACE, YOUR ASSERTIVENESS WILL BECOME A VIRTUE RATHER THAN A VICE.

5. COMMUNICATION… YOU CAN USE YOUR SKILLS TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER TO DEVELOP THEIR COMMUNITIES…AND A DEVELOPED COMMUNITY IS USUALLY A PEACEFUL ONE.

6. VISION … I KNOW MANY OF YOU, AND I KNOW THAT YOU ARE BURSTING WITH GREAT IDEAS… IDEAS FOR A BUSINESS OR NON PROFIT OR FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL… WHY NOT HARNESS YOUR IMAGINATION, YOUR VISION, TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR PEACE?

7. INSPIRATION… A TRUE LEADER LEADS BY EXAMPLE. THERE IS NO BETTER WAY TO INSPIRE OTHERS THAN TO DEMONSTRATE YOUR COMMITMENT TO PEACE, AND TO SERVING OTHERS…

HOW DO YOU HARNESS THESE ABILITIES, THESE CHARACTERISTICS? HOW DO YOU USE YOUR INTEGRITY, DEDICATION, HUMILITY, ASSERTIVENESS, COMMUNICATION SKILLS, INSPIRATION, AND VISION TO BECOME A LEADER FOR PEACE?...LET ME GIVE YOU SOME EXAMPLES, SOME WAYS YOU MIGHT BECOME A PEACE LEADER….

ONE WAY IS TO JOIN AND PARTICIPATE ACTIVELY IN ANY NUMBER OF OUTSTANDING PEACE ORGANIZATIONS RIGHT HERE IN KANSAS CITY… PEOPLE TO PEOPLE INTERNATIONAL COMES TO MIND. THEIR MOTTO IS PEACE THROUGH UNDERSTANDING, AND THEY DO WORK HERE AT HOME AND AROUND THE WORLD TO BRING PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS TOGETHER TO ESTABLISH A MEANINGFUL DIALOGUE AND WORK FOR PEACE. IN FACT, PARK UNIVERSITY HAS A STUDENT PTPI CHAPTER. PEOPLE TO PEOPLE IS LEAD BY MARY EISENHOWER, ONE OF THE BEST LEADERS I KNOW. SHE’S TERRIFIC BECAUSE OF HOW SHE USES HER LEADERSHIP QUALITIES TO INSPIRE OTHERS TO UNITE FOR A MORE PEACEFUL WORLD….

YOU COULD ALSO BECOME A LEADER FOR PEACE BY JOINING A ROTARY CLUB, OR THE STUDENT VERSION OF ROTARY, CALLED ROTARACT. ROTARY’S MOTTO IS THE SAME AS MY DEFINITION OF LEADERSHIP—SERVICE ABOVE SELF. THE PARKVILLE ROTARY, FOR EXAMPLE, IS FULL OF LEADERS DEDICATED TO MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. AMONG OTHER THINGS, THEY’VE SELFLESSLY ASSISTED A SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM IN UGANDA, AND IN DOING SO IMPROVED THE LIVES OF HUNDREDS OF HUNGRY CHILDREN. PARK’S ROTARACT CHAPTER HAS BEEN SPREADING PEACE BY COLLECTING SCHOOL SUPPLIES FOR KIDS IN LIBERIA…KIDS WHO OTHERWISE WOULD LITERALLY HAVE NO PENS, PAPER, OR BOOKS….

OF COURSE, YOU DON’T HAVE TO JOIN AN EXISTING ORGANIZATON TO BECOME A LEADER FOR PEACE… SINCE YOU ARE LEADERS, YOU CAN CREATE YOUR OWN ORGANIZATION!! HERE’S THE FORMULA—SEE A NEED, FILL THAT NEED. YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING TO PROMOTE MIDDLE EAST PEACE? START A WEBSITE, CREATE AN ONLINE PETITION, ORGANIZE A FORUM WHERE YOU GET PALESTINIAN AND ISRAELI SPEAKERS TOGETHER… SEE A NEED, FILL THAT NEED. WANT TO DO SOMETHING TO HELP POOR KIDS IN UGANDA? DO WHAT PARK STUDENT SIMON SENFUKA DID….MOBILIZE THE COMMUNITY, GET DONATIONS OF SOCCER EQUIPMENT AND SCHOOL SUPPLIES, AND FLY THEM ALL TO UGANDA… SEE A NEED, FILL THAT NEED.

NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE WANGARI MATHAII OF KENYA, WHO RECENTLY PASSED AWAY, DIDN’T START OUT WITH A NOBEL PEACE PRIZE IN MIND… THE NEED SHE SAW WAS DE-FORESTATION IN KENYA, AND HER IDEA WAS TO PLANT A FEW TREES. WELL, A FEW TREES BECAME A FEW HUNDRED-THOUSAND TREES, AND BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, THE GREEN MOVEMENT WAS BORN IN KENYA…THIS MOVEMENT HAS NOT ONLY HAS HELPED THE ENVIRONMENT, BUT NOW CONCENTRATES AS WELL ON ISSUES OF PEACE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE.

WHILE I’M STILL NOT SURE HOW TO DEFINE LEADERSHIP, I DO THINK I KNOW WHAT A GREAT LEADER LOOKS LIKE.. A GREAT LEADER, FOR ME, LOOKS LIKE WANGARI MATHAII OR SIMON SENFUKA OR MARY EISENHOWER…

AS I LOOK OUT ON YOU LEADERS, ALL I CAN THINK IS THAT THERE IS NOTHING TO STOP YOU FROM USING YOUR ABILITIES TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER, AND MORE PEACEFUL, PLACE. THANK YOU.

--Follow me on Twitter @PeaceJourn --


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Tags: journalism, leadership, park, peace, university

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