Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Healthy organizations and coffee

I was thinking about an email I sent this morning which was about how organizations should work together rather than trying to be the last one standing. That thought led me to thinking about the health of our organization and the little indicators we can look at. As I got my next cup of coffee the correlation struck me.

Almost every Grange I’ve been to has served coffee. The different ways it is served seem to say something about those members. Instant, drip, brewed in a percolator, decaffeinated or regular, all can be seen at a Grange meeting somewhere.

Does instant coffee mean we are looking for efficiency or do we not want to set up the coffee pot? Do we use the percolator because we like the coffee brewed that way or because that is the way we’ve always done it? Do we serve both decaf and regular or just one type?

More importantly, do we offer alternatives? I saw a study this past week that shows young people are not choosing to drink coffee nearly as much as previous generations. Are we offering tea or water or are we prepared to cater to those new members who are not coffee drinkers?

As 2010 comes to a close, I challenge every member to look at the little things, like coffee, and ensure that our Grange is a healthy organization that is meeting the needs and wants of our members and potential members. It is often the little things that make the biggest difference.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Reason for our Grange Structure

"To those who read aright, history proves that in all ages society is fragmentary, and successful results of general welfare can be secured only by general effort. Unity of action cannot be acquired without discipline, and discipline cannot be enforced without significant organization; hence we have a ceremony of initiation which binds us in mutual fraternity as with a band of iron; but although its influence is so powerful, its application is as gentle as that of the silken thread that binds a wreath of flowers."

This quote is from the Preamble of the Constitution of our Grange. In reading the rules of the Grange and the Degree work of our organization, discipline is seldom mentioned, but its presence is often taken for granted.

I find our system to be an fascinating way to enforce discipline within our organization. Each member is a volunteer and has equal voice in their Community Grange and at the Pomona (County or District) level if they choose to participate there. Those local members select the delegates to represent their Grange at the State Session and thus have a say in those proceedings. The National Grange is made up of the State Grange leadership and is constantly reminded of our purposes by the resolutions and comments that emanate from our membership.

The strength of any organization is measured by the ability to put resources and/or manpower toward the accomplishment of its goals. Since 1867 the Grange has been doing so in the local community and furthering those goals in State Capitols and in Washington, D.C. No member is bound to support those things he doesn't believe in, but each is given the opportunity to attempt to sway their fellow members during the process of setting our policies.

It is only when members forget those powerful lessons contained within our Degrees that we encounter problems that become destructive to our Grange. William Saunders wrote the preamble and must have clearly understood the importance of having a method to enforce discipline within our young organization to ensure a long and prosperous future.

Dissension and strife have been kept to a minimum by the knowledge and expectation that we will treat each other as Sisters and Brothers as we debate issues, plan for the future, and learn to work together to benefit our communities. We use the lessons of the Grange to create the discipline that empowers each member to be productive.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fiscal Responsiblity

In November, I gave my third Annual Address to the delegates of the National Grange. The following two paragraphs were from the fiscal responsibility section.

"There is no issue with greater impact on our Nation than the fiscal responsibility of our elected officials at each level of government. If we allow our elected officials to fail to exercise prudent fiscal restraint we destroy what our country has stood for over the past 234 years. Our nation and states cannot spend more than we receive over the long-term, and we cannot continue to raise taxes and fees without harming the initiative and strong work ethic of the average American.

"Our great nation has developed a serious spending problem over the last few decades. Over the past two years our federal government has accelerated this problem beyond any precedent. In the past year, 37 cents of every dollar that our federal government spent was borrowed. By having huge deficits in the budget, we are creating long-term debt that was unimaginable a decade ago."

The debate in Congress on keeping our taxes at their current level should have been held months or even years ago instead of this week. Instead of making the debate one of partisanship, it should be one of finding the best solution for American taxpayers and our economy.

From the looks of things today, a great deal of increased spending will be included with keeping our taxes at their current rate. The estate or death tax looks to be re-instituted, but at somewhat lower levels than they were in 2001. It appears that no one will be happy with the final bill, but there is hope that something will pass this week.

2011 needs to be the year that we reduce spending and Congress needs to continue hearing that message.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cars and Choices

I read an article this week that I found intriguing as I am one of those car guys. The headline screamed, “Car of the future won’t be cheap” in Monday’s USA Today.
The article stated that cars could cost thousands more than the buyers would ever save in fuel costs. Smaller and less powerful cars that cost more in order to increase fuel economy seem be the order of the day.

President Obama’s ambitious goals of 47 to 62 mpg by 2025 will change our choices of vehicles. Just as the station wagon become virtually extinct after the introduction of CAFE standards in the 1970’s, the types of vehicles available to Americans will once again be restricted if history repeats itself.

The article compared the Chevy Cruze starting at less than $20,000 with the Chevy Volt at $41,000 to demonstrate the cost differences between conventional fuel-efficient gas car and an electric car. While I am all for fuel efficiency and reducing the amount of pollution generated by motor vehicles, I believe that political agendas should not trump consumer needs and demands. We also need to consider the reality of electricity as it isn’t free and it isn’t always non-polluting as you need to take into account how that power was produced.

In addition automotive executives stated that they would like gas taxes raised to ensure $4, $5, or $6 a gallon gas prices. At that level of fuel costs they believed that these proposed high cost vehicles will be far more attractive to consumers. What a shock, obviously they believe that when gas become unaffordable, people will need alternatives. This does make for an interesting business plan.

Rural America does not need more disadvantages. Transporting our families or hauling household or farm items are common activities for everyone in rural areas. I can’t speak for everyone, but there are a lot of us who don’t want to live in town. We want to live in a rural community and we understand that there are benefits and costs associated with that choice.

I love having choices. With cars, I enjoy driving my Impala and when I pass a Smart Car, I am glad they chose it and that I have other choices. It is important that our government not take our choices away either by direct action or by indirectly forcing companies to eliminate our selections.

The car of the future must not become a luxury item that many can not afford. Living in the community of our choice must also remain a viable option. These two statements are intertwined in rural America. Having choices are necessary for all!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Community and The Grange

In my Internal Report one of the sections was about the community and the importance of our organization to the community.

"The community is truly the base upon which our great nation was founded and is fundamental in why we have achieved so much. The founders of our Order knew that to improve the lot of the American farmer and their family, the community must remain the keystone of our Order. National and State efforts would only be successful when the local communities saw the strength in unity.

"There are only a handful of organizations with more local units than the Grange and there are fewer still that give the local unit as much authority as our Order gives the Community Grange. Since early in our history we have opened wide the doors of Grange membership to the entire family. For over a century we have welcomed those who were not farmers and today welcome all of good character. The importance of starting new Granges to benefit communities cannot be understated. It is my belief that we are on the brink of expanding into several new states and our goal must continue to be that we have a State Grange in every State in our great nation.

"Looking back at the history of our Order, we should feel proud that we’ve also had a profound influence throughout the world. Meeting in September with the participants and children of participants of the Germany/USA Friendship program demonstrated to me the power that the simple exchange of opening our arms and hearts to others can have. The Germany/USA program existed for about six years and yet 60 years later the participants still gather to share memories and update each other about their lives. For those participants one year of exchange became a lifetime of friendship and family.

"Looking around the world at the problems of fear, poverty, and even survival facing so many nations, it is time that our members once again consider opening their doors and hearts to share our hopes and optimism with others. I would suggest that when opportunities to share the unique dynamics of our organization and our members are presented, we take the challenge and show others around the world that Americans want to help them find lasting solutions."

The Grange has served American communities for the past 143 years and we will continue to serve and benefit them far into the future. If you want to know more about how a Grange can help your community, go to www.NationalGrange.org and learn how easy it is to start a Grange in your community.