Monday, June 28, 2010

What a Reason to Celebrate

On Saturday, the National Grange took the day to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of our building at 1616 H Street, NW in Washington D.C. This building was built and paid for by Grange members across the country and the day was dedicated to them.

Around 500 members and visitors attended the re-dedication ceremony or visited the building on June 26. From my perspective, it seemed more like a family reunion than anything else. So far this morning, I've found a note from Alex, and a business card from Chris and I'm sure I'll find traces of other members in the office.

I want to thank Clackamas County Pomona Grange for the re-dedication plaque; Kermit and Margaret Richardson, Pete Pommper, and Grange Insurance Association for the artwork they each donated; and Grange Mutual Insurance of Oklahoma and all the Granges and members who donated to aid us in the re-painting of the Goss conference room and our offices on the 11th and 10th floors. The list of donors were in the program and each are so appreciated.

Your National Grange staff deserves your appreciation for their hard work to ensure that the day went smoothly. The officers of the National Grange did a great job throughout the day and then served as ushers as we prepared for the ceremony. A special thank you goes to Ed and Darlene Andersen, Bob and Delores Barrow, and Kermit and Margaret Richardson for taking the time to attend and be part of this day of celebration. As three of our past National Grange Masters it was an honor to recognize them for their contributions to our organization.

The youth who served as building ambassadors made my day. They were so enthused and ready to help everyone. The stream of people showed in a real way what the Grange is. We had kids in strollers, elementary students looking at exhibits, teenagers giving tours, parents were meeting and sharing experiences with each other, and the grandparents were showing their families and friends bits of our history. Saturday was a family affair and the showcase for the Grange was the building.

It is important to occasionally take a moment to celebrate some of the milestones of life. The Grange observed the 50th anniversary of our building, but the real commemoration was recognition of the members who made the dream of a building a reality and those who keep the dream alive.

Today as I reflect upon Saturday, I feel great! It is now time to get back to the exciting task of growing the Grange, I am refreshed and re-energized by being a part of our members celebrating one of the big milestones of the Grange.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Some people claim to be activists while most of us would hesitate to even suggest that we were such. I wonder if today's media and our lexicon should try to differentiate between activists and protesters.

I've seen a lot of TV coverage of protests over the years. From our headquarters building you can often see groups of protesters in Lafayette Park as they march and chant in front of the White House. In reflecting upon all the protests I've seen over the years, only a few seemed to have any strong mainstream American connection. Most seem to be angry people upset over a single issue. Only rarely does a protest seem to draw in people from all walks of life. In fact, many protests are rather small events in terms of people participating.

Of course, most of us who never go to protests have jobs, families, and responsibilities and have little time to go and wave signs and participate in chanting the slogan of that days protest.

Activists on the other hand, are all about getting something done. Being in a group of thousands may influence politicians, but starting a project that makes people's lives better begins with people sharing their concerns. America's traditional civic organizations seldom gather to protest, but they regularly meet and discuss what they can do to help others. These are the real activist organizations.

Just like the Grange, the civic organizations in each community tend to attract activists, those who what to get some action started. These organizations normally work together on bigger projects and they give each member the opportunity to influence which projects or activities the group will choose to work on.

Every American should find ways to become an activist within their community. Community action is how we change both our state and our nation and the more healthy community activist organizations we have, the stronger our communities. Our local civic organizations are the real deal when you want to talk about activist organizations. They are not huge checkbook organizations, they are real people working together to aid others.

Regardless of if you are a small business owner, work for a large corporation, work 9 to 5, or are retired, check out your local Grange to find out how you can be an activist in your community. Your community is counting on you.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Discussion of Big Issues Including Global Warming

The Grange is an organization that encourages our members to discuss, debate, and even to disagree on issues in order to find common ground and solutions to real problems. Policies of the Community, State, and National Grange are the result of our grassroots based concept of setting the official view of our organization through a democratic, collective decision making process. The end result is that the issues that we set policy on are not always the same. A Community Grange policy may differ from their State Grange's policy on the same topic. Any State may have an opposing view from the National Grange's policies.

In reality the only members who are required to publicly support any of the policies of the Grange are the leaders at each level that has policy on that issue. Our support comes from the discussion of our membership during the adoption progress.

Issues such as global warming or climate change, are huge issues that have the potential to divide any group. I am aware of many members of our organization that believe strongly that we are the sole cause of this problem, while many others question just how much change is happening and do not believe that mankind has the power to change climate.

Many groups have taken "politically correct" positions so that they don't have to take the heat. Some groups have ignored the issue and a few have taken the opportunity to have open discussion. On the issue of global warming, all possible positions have danger, at least in a political sense.

Our stand is that each member must follow their own conscience on each issue. Where they disagree with official policy, they should advocate for its change internally and work for their point of view outside the organization. Calling names or implying that leaders are wrong for carrying out the policies of the Grange at that level are not actions based upon the high standards of Grange principles.

The Grange position on global warming is rather brief. We are opposed to the current various incarnations of the "Cap and Trade" bill as they are more about revenue generation than impacting any global warming. We are also opposed to increasing legislation or regulation to restrict greenhouse gasses as governmental intervention seldom solves the problem.

We have a long history of 142 years, during which we have consistently advocated for good stewardship of our land and environment. We don't always agree with particular pieces of legislation or specific rules from agencies, but we do believe that good stewardship must be part of our lifestyle, regardless of whether we live in a rural area or an urban environment. During our traditional initiation process each new member is left with the goal that we should leave the world a better place than we found it.

The Grange remains one of the few organizations where open discussion of the big issues is not only possible, but encouraged. Tempers may occasionally flare, passions may erupt, but the end goal is a civil discussion where all learn something and we search together for common ground.

The Grange Declaration of Purposes, written by the Founders of the Grange and still part of the Constitution of the National Grange, anticipated that there would be conflicts of opinion and philosophy as part of the Grange policy development process. Through the Declaration of Purposes, the Founders teach us that as Grange members, we collectively believe that "....difference of opinion is not a crime...." I would also add that neither is difference of opinion per se evidence of a failure of process or procedure in either developing our policy or implementing that policy. The Founders also teach us in the same section of the Declaration of Purposes that ....the fault lies in the bitterness of the controversy", meaning that disagreements on issues are only problems when we can not accept that our Brother and Sister Grange members, of good faith and honest character can have opinions or perspectives other than those we are comfortable with, including opinions that challenge our core values and ideas of who WE are as individual Grange members and what OUR Grange "stands for."

None of the big issues facing our society will be solved with "bumper sticker" solutions. We understand that complex problems often require solutions that require patience, time, and the ability to change and adapt as we learn. I am confident that Grange policies will continue to change and adapt without losing the fundamental principles that our organization has. The principle of open discussion of the big issues of the day is alive and well.