July 31, 2014

Ken Garner, Optimist International President 2014-2015 answers the question: Who Am I?

People draw meaning from different parts of any learning activity in which they take part. The 2014 Optimist International Convention was one such event. It inspired the attendees with stories from young Austin Gatus about not giving up and working through life-threatening medical complications. Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series shared a message of personal leadership and challenged every individual to help the organization grow by recruiting one new member. There were governance issues presented, discussed and resolved and a number of sessions to train members to be successful in their leadership roles.

And then there was this. Ken Garner, President, Optimist International, 2014-2015 took the stage and wowed the audience with his energy. He even included a song. Please take 25 minutes to enjoy his speech and be sure to stay tuned until the end so that you can understand, just like you, Ken Garner is an optimist.

Who Am I? 

July 27, 2014

Optimist Clubs encourage good communication skills with scholarship contests

optimist international scholarship contests
Can you believe it? Children head back to school in three to four weeks or less. While you scratch your head wondering how that can be possible, let me tell you about the Optimist International Scholarship Contests for 2014-2015.

All Optimist International Scholarship contests begin at the club level. Following rules determined by Optimist International and a timeline set by the district based on those rules, Optimist Clubs invite students to participate in essay and oratorical contests.

The theme for the Optimist International Essay Contest for 2014-2015 is "Optimism Should be a Priority." It is open to students under the age of 19 who have not yet graduated from high school or the equivalent. Find out more, including a club planning guide here: Optimist International Essay Contest.

The theme for the Optimist International Oratorical Contest for 2014-2015 is "How My Optimism Will Help Me Press on to Greater Achievements of the Future." It is open to students under the age of 19 who have not yet graduated from high school or the equivalent and who are educated in the United States, Canada or the Caribbean. Find out more including a club planning guide here: Optimist International Oratorical Contest.

The Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) for 2014-2015 will also address "How My Optimism Will Help Me Press on to Greater Achievements of the Future." It is open to students through grade 12 in the United States and Canada, to CEGEP in Quebec and grade 13 in the Caribbean, who are educated in the United States, Canada or the Caribbean. Find out more including a club planning guide here: Optimist International CCDHH.

Now is the time to get the topics to your schools. Those who teach English, public speaking or theater arts, among others, may include the contests in their lesson plan if they know early enough about the topic and the scoring method. Counselors and others may also encourage students to participate. Get the word out there! Optimist International Scholarship Contests rock!

July 17, 2014

Dystopian optimism

Continuing with the belief that the Optimist International media library needs to be increased, at the international convention, Optimist International asked vice president-designates to produce a video on behalf of their regions. They shared the videos with one another and they are now slowly reaching others.

The first one shown here was produced by Jan Oord Graves of the Southwest District. Using the tune from "What does the Fox Say?" 11-year-old Valeria Jauregui sings "What our Creed says!" while projects and fellowship of our club members are shown on the screen like a photo album.


With a different approach, Ed Murphy of the West Coast Region takes us on a dystopian journey before bringing us back to optimism. His message, "Reverse it", reminds us that Optimist International is only a force for good because of the personal involvement of each member. Without that personal involvement, it might fade away.

When I first watched Ed's video, I planned to write an article about leading with optimism. Even for emphasis, telling the world that the organization is doomed is probably not the best approach for an optimist or an Optimist Club member. I realize that he was going for shock value and I applaud the creativity, but it would be quite easy for a viewer to click away and not hear the positive message that reverses the negative thinking. I told him that I would probably not publish the video on my blog.

After receiving Jan's video, I decided to take the risk and publish Ed's video at the same time. The videos show the different approaches that Optimist International volunteer leaders use when reaching out to others. One emphasizes the status quo. The other shakes us up and asks where are we going and how will we get there.

Both send valuable messages and are a timely lead-in to a conversation that the Optimist International Board of Directors asked its member clubs to consider. Optimist International has asked, for the purposes of growth and financial sustainability, can we continue with the status quo? This is a topic for another post, but think about it, friends. Where are we headed? How will we get there? Are we being responsible stewards of the Optimist International legacy or do we need to make some major structural changes now for the future?

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