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?

July 16, 2014

South Side Optimist Club wins #ReelOptimism contest

In an effort to increase its media collection and to promote what it means to be an Optimist Club member, Optimist International and the Optimist International Foundation recently hosted a video contest for #ReelOptimism.

Optimist Club members were quite enthusiastic with their responses when asked to complete the sentence, "The greatest thing about being an Optimist is...".

The #ReelOptimism winner was revealed at the Optimist International Convention (#OIConv14) on July 12, 2014. Congratulations to the South Side Optimist Club of Fort Wayne, Indiana for your winning entry and kudos for your inspirational fellowship.

July 7, 2014

A woman to lead

I hope that I don't offend you with a general observation that I am going to make: service clubs are famous for promoting old men. Similar to when you look at corporate organizational structures, when you look at the boards of directors and officers at club and international levels, the men far outnumber the women.

Optimist Club YanktonNonetheless, I am still surprised when I run across an Optimist Club that has just installed its first female president. Kudos this morning to the Morning Optimist Club of Yankton, South Dakota and president Lisa Berry.

Lisa is shown here making a donation to the Yankton Baseball Association. The club is an active supporter of youth sports and education in the community and in the past year has donated almost $25,000 to academic and athletic programs. It also contributes to leadership programs including Boy Scouts and the Boys & Girls Club, among others.

Working on leadership within its core has been on the club members' minds. According to member Jacob Hoffner, the club has been encouraging Lisa to take the reins for many years. Her accepting this new role has been accompanied by a younger set joining the Optimist Club. Boasting ten new members thus far, the Morning Optimist Club of Yankton now has 99 members.

Good luck in your growth, Optimists. Thank you for your service. And best wishes to Lisa and the many more women that will follow in her footsteps.

Photo credit: www.yankton.net

July 4, 2014

An avenue of flags to unite the community

Bob Burkman, member, Optimist Club of Centerville, Ohio says that if there is one thing that can unite a community, it's the US flag. Doing what Optimist Clubs do best - bring people together in a sense of community, the Centerville Optimist Club placed 1,000 flags today making an Avenue of Flags for the 4th of July celebration. According to Fox News, more than 75,000 visitors will be drawn to Centerville today to celebrate the Americana Festival.

You'd better believe those flags will be front and center. Well done, Optimists! That's a great way to inspire patriotism in the community. Happy Independence Day to all!.

July 2, 2014


Linda Vaught Jackson optimist
I'm happy to announce that my bid for Vice President, West Coast Region, Optimist International was fulfilled. I received word from International President Ron Huxley that I was elected by my peers to become vice president-elect, taking the official office on October 1, 2015.

If you are an Optimist Club member, please accept my sincere appreciation for your support. 

If you are not an Optimist Club member, please let me encourage you to find an Optimist Club near you and get involved. 

The role of the vice president is largely diplomatic. It provides information from Optimist International to district leaders in an effort to motivate them to build new clubs and add new members. Over recent years, it has also become a teaching role, helping with education on leadership and program development for members of Optimist Clubs. 

My goal is to expand this position to be more involved with communications. I will endeavor to build a model for two-way symmetrical internal communication to occur between Optimist International and its component stakeholders and a similar model for external communication to occur between Optimist Clubs, Districts and Optimist International and the general public. 

It's going to be fun and with any luck at all, it will also be transparent and authentic. Please know those are not buzzwords; they are my road map to an open culture. I hope you join with me as we press on to the greater achievements of the future. 
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