(from Remarks to the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce 2003 Annual Meeting)
“Last year at this meeting I commented that my father would not believe that his son was now the president of the Chamber of Commerce, especially after my ‘long hair’ days in the late sixties, and it’s fair to say the same about my mother. Last month I buried my Mother – a single parent who did whatever it took to provide for her sons and always set the right example. I’d like to think that whatever positive attributes are attributed to me can be directly related to my mother’s influence in my life. However, because of her failing physical and mental health, my Mother and I had far too many conflicts near the end of her life. I had to make choices on her behalf that weren’t popular but had to be made. I lost my ‘favorite son’ status. But after her death (and this is the real epiphany for me this year), I now know that she rests peacefully. I think she is proud of her son and I can now see all the great things she did on my behalf during her life, unclouded by health and personality conflicts.
Why do I bring these intensely personal family issues to an annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce? Well, I’m a firm believer that if we’re going to improve our community, we have to treat each other as family. We might have difficult times, but in the long run, we are all in this together. Some of these difficult times might cloud our judgment, but we must remember that our community is our family. Often when we think in ‘a business way’ we tend to lose sight of this big picture. We need to constantly remind ourselves that the real business of business is people. If we take care of people right, business will thrive, as well as our community. The Chamber of Commerce is focused on the business of business, people.
That’s why I’m so proud of the work of the Greenwood Area Chamber of Commerce, the catalyst for so many community activities, such as park development, education, neighborhood, health and, cultural initiatives and workforce development, to name a few. And all of these activities complement our primary function, business advocacy. We exist to serve our members.
As you know, I started this series of articles after the shooting at Columbine High School in April 1999. I felt that it was important that each of us realize this could happen in Greenwood, and that we need to be taking positive steps to make sure that it doesn’t.
The work of the Chamber of Commerce follows these same principles in its provision of services for you as the members of the Chamber and for you as members of the community. Please be mindful of these steps the current year and beyond. Rest assured that the Chamber will continue working hard for our family, the Greenwood area community.”
From the perspective of 18 years later, I can still see how we need to push our businesses to be active agents for progress and change. If the business of business is people, then work to improve our communities becomes a communal effort. Oftentimes, businesses are approached for financial support for this or that community project. Such support is important but only one component of the necessary efforts to really impact the lives of our fellow citizens and our community. Active and sustained involvement paired with love for others and the ability to practice forgiveness and sprinkled with sincerity and humility can guide us individually and corporately toward a better tomorrow. But only when we accept personal responsibility and ownership for what needs to be improved. Only then is community seen and treated like family.