Monday, June 20, 2011

Today's fortune: June 20, 2011

Today's fortune: You will be recognized and honored as a community leader.

Well that sounds lovely.

The closest I've ever been to being a "community leader" - and it wasn't very close at all - was when I served as the editor of the daily newspaper in Kansas City, Kansas. I was fairly well known in the community, and my editorial voice was respected and talked about, if not necessarily well-liked. I was also invited to speak to numerous civic organizations, booster clubs and school groups. On occasion, I was asked to moderate a debate between local political candidates.

I was even asked to judge a national educators contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I drove to the VFW national headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, and joined numerous local celebrities to judge entries from teachers around the country.

The most fun I ever had as a community leader was also as a judge. For two years in a row I was asked to be a judge for the Wild Game Cook-Off at the Wyandotte County Fair. What a blast. I ate some really terrific and really awful food, and the hardest part was keeping a straight face the whole time - even when I bit into a mouthful of duck liberally seasoned with birdshot.

Once, while working for a different newspaper, I was truly honored for my role in the community. I was able to cover a football team that won a state championship - a huge deal for a tiny school in rural northwest Missouri. At the postseason awards ceremony, I was given a plaque to recognize my coverage. Because not only had I covered the team during their championship season, I also covered them tirelessly the season before - when their record was 1-8.

While working for community newspapers, I learned an important fact: community leaders don't have to be prominent people. The best and most effective ones are ordinary citizens who champion a cause. Sometimes the cause is the community itself. Unfortunately, too often these folks are blinded by their cause and lose sight of everything else. But the good ones give selflessly of themselves, expecting (and usually receiving) nothing in return.

As I've written before on this blog, I can't envision a future where I work as a journalist. Been there, done that. But maybe I'll be able be able to draw inspiration from those great local activists I've known to find another way to be a community leader. I hope so. It's fun and rewarding.

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