Karl Rove, Jaycees, the Homestretch, and Lessons Learned

In my younger days I belonged for several years to the Virginia Jaycees, the Virginia arm of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.  Organized in 1920 by Henry Geissenbier as a way to provide leadership training through community service, the Jaycees not only continue to give folks ages 18-(now)40 a way to develop leadership skills, it also provides for those who are looking a chance to see how people react in times of stress and when faced with challenging circumstances.

I enjoyed my time in the Jaycees.  I met some great people (BFIV is a case in point) not to mention found SWMBO while on the verge of food poisoning from eating some ham that had turned.  Let me tell you, nothing can get you can cast your inhibitions aside and lay it on the line like the onset of massive digestive turmoil!

I also learned a lot. As a Jaycee I witnessed the truth adversity does not build character, but it reveals character. I saw that folks want to work together if properly led and motivated.  I also saw an unusual practice that recurred every spring…perhaps known as jumping off a horse in the middle of a stream.  Given Karl Rove’s recent resignation, I wonder if he was ever a Jaycee.

Jaycee chapters back in the day had a program year of May 1 to April 30 (since changed to a calendar year).  Officers served a year term.  Sometime in February the chapter president would have to really crack the whip to get the officers to forcefully come down the homestretch and finish with vigor.  I called them “February Dreamers”.  Why?  Because they started dreaming about the offices they would hold next year, and were more concerned with that which was about to start rather than what they were involved in.

That is where the Karl Rove departure comes in.  He says he has to do it for his family, and notes that it is not unusual for staffers to leave in the last two years of an 8 year sting in the oval office.  The same type of exodus happened with Reagan and with Clinton.

However, unlike those predecessors “W” has about a year and a half left in office.  We have troops overseas in an expedition that Rove promoted.  The country is at war with terrorism.  Rove is on the fringes of a variety of investigations from firing US Attorney’s to the l’affaire Valerie Plame.  Whatever your take on the GWBush presidency, it was created in no small part by Karl Rove.  Having been such an architect in its construction both as a political consultant and as a presidential advisor, one would think he would have the cajones to stick it out.

Ah, but such thinking would not come from a person who had been a Jaycee!  Rove is like all those “February dreamers” who started to dream about “next year” rather than finish this year strong.  I have seen a variety of Karl Rove’s.  Some were good, others less so, but they all lost focus on the task at hand and started worrying about future events instead of working and living in the present.

Now, as back then, I think the “February Dreamers” were essentially AWOL, and did a disservice to themselves and to the organization.  Frankly, I think the same thing of Karl Rove.  I have no doubt he is tired, and I have no doubt that some think he has earned himself some time off.  Others are probably annoyed he did not leave some time back.

I think he should have stayed the course, much as he is so wont to urge others to do.  Why?  Because he is “The Architect”.  More than anyone since the Nixon White House Rove had a huge role in both the electoral and the administrative side of the house.  To paraphrase my late grandmother, Rove was in charge of both “gettin’ it” and “doin’ it”.  Neither in my experience nor in my reading can I find a single person in this country who enjoyed so much influence in both arenas.

Rove should stay on, and walk out of the Oval office arm in arm with Bush on January 20, 2009.  Bush may have been the blacksmith swinging the hammer, but Rove was the fellow in the foundry who made the hammer, and made it to his (not necessarily Bush’s) specifications based on his take for the policy or political needs of the Bush White House.  That kind of involvement suggests a continued commitment.

Karl Rove is a February Dreamer, like many I saw in the Jaycees.  He is bailing out in the homestretch of an administration he built to dream instead of future conquests…and I fear he will learn what all the February Dreamer’s ultimately learned-that if you don’t finish this year strong, a lot of folks don’t take you as seriously next year.

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7 thoughts on “Karl Rove, Jaycees, the Homestretch, and Lessons Learned

  1. Bwana:
    Thank you for the trip down memory lane. The Jaycees provided the foundation for me, for where I am and what I have achieved in my life. Like you, the greatest asset I took away from the Jaycees was I met my SWMBO and I also met you and other good people around the Commonwealth of Virginia. I always said at the end of the day it is the things you learn and the friendships you make is what you can take away from any experience. I owe much more to the Jaycees than I can ever repay in terms of my experience while an active member.
    Being a Past President I can say that you are correct about the “February Dreamers” and it was difficult to keep the train running forward and some people learn from that experience and some people do not. I also agree in your assessment of Mr. Rove “February/August” surprise. However, at the end of the day, history will be the judge & jury on the Bush Presidency and Mr. Rove might be a footnote.
    I have lived most of my life by one basic rule and that is “Loyalty above all else, except dishonor!” Has Mr. Rove shown that to President Bush, really there is only one judge for that and he has 18 months left in office.
    Thank you Bwana.

    Bwana Fan In Vienna

  2. Its’ too bad you really didn’t learn more about the Jaycees. Your so called “February Dreamers” were people who were finishing up their jobs as strongly as they had started them,not drifting aside at the end.I have to guess from your commentary that were not one who went on to higher ofice In”the real day” you didn’t go up the ladder unless you had been successful at the lower levels.
    I well remember working long nights to get the paperwork done to document the work that had been done to make our community a better one for everyone. You didn’t quit until the entire job was done. Your equating Jaycees with Mr. Rove really is a bad comparison.

    The Virginia Jaycees used to be a very proud organization of over 13,000 dues paid members who were the movers in their communities. But that was back before the nineties when the organization collapsed because of poor leadership over a number of years. The local chapters stopped being the motivators in their communities for needs unmet by other groups. They quit going out and starting new chapters and involving new young people. Today there are probably fewer than 2000 in Virginia. It is a shame.

    Your days in the Jaycees were not the great days when it was without a doubt the best civic organization in Virginia but when it had fallen to a shell of itself. Like I said before, it’s too bad you didn’t really understand it.

  3. I have no idea what your “February Dreamers” did, but the folks I referred to, the “February Dreamers” I encountered, were the ones that let go early. The ones that stayed on the job were folks like myself who held all the chapter offices, and even may have worn a white name badge on occasion. We were the May sweathogs, who put sweat equity into projects from Day One and didn’t quit all year.

    Near as I can tell-and you frankly have not offered up anything beyond a mere assertion-is that the Rove bail is akin to those folks who stopped giving their in the last quarter of a program year because they were too worried about starting the new year. Perhaps you can go into detail on your own blog about how calling a spade a spade about an organization and some of the folks who were in it is equivalent to not understanding it.

    I will glide by the presumptive tone of your post as befits one JCI Senator to another. I have no doubt that you did stay up late doing CPG’s and QPR’s. However, many didn’t. Many left the work for folks like you and me…and for you to suggest or even imply that wasn’t the case is myopia at it’s best.

  4. Well as I said in another posting, so far I have lived my life by this rule “loyalty above all else, except dishonor!” I must chime in with Bwana and say that there were only a handful of people concerned with keeping the projects for the rest of the year. While Most of the others were looking to position themselves for the next Jaycee year to come. I can substantiate that Bwana did in fact also wear a white name tag and did so proudly. My wife also wore won as well, and went on to be honored with a Virginia Life Member. I was honored by my home chapter with a Chapter Life Membership. So far as awards were concerned, it was the only honor that I believe is worthy to still hang on my wall at home. The other awards and accolades, while great, didn’t matter as much to me.
    You can say that we didn’t understand, however, only I can be the true Judge of what I understood of Jaycees, not you.
    My question to you “Older Jaycee” is what are you doing for your community now? Have you joined the Lions Club or some other Service Organization? Have you volunteered in an effort to work to make your community a better place? Are you serving in an elected or appointed position of authority in your community or have you worked on a campaign to help someone else to be. Unless you are doing that, do not begin to think you can tell me what Bwana or myself “understood” about the Jaycees and what we did not!

    Bwana Fan In Vienna

  5. Bwana fan,

    You question whether I stayed involved. You make assertions without knowing anything. Since no longer being an active Jaycee, I have served on the board of directors of five civic organizations including being president of two. I have been selected as the outstanding member for the year of a statewide organization with thousands of members. I have done training for over thirty local civic organizations in the past five years. I am presently a member of three local civic organizations and attend 80% of their meetings.

    I have been involved in campaigns for over thirty years and have served in positions within local,regional and state party organizations. I have personally helped recruit several members of the legislature and am assisting with several legislative campaigns this year on the management level.

    I have served on several statewide boards and commissions in the past and am currently serving on one.

    I was a life member of three local Jaycee chapters, the one I started my Jaycee career in, the one I was President of, and one that I extended and attended every meeting they had their first year. While in my Jaycee career, I worked on over thirty new chapter extensions, more chapters than I think even exist in Virginia today. I was called by the state organization three years ago and asked to assist in another, more than 100 miles from my home. I wore a state officer tag(I am guessing that is what you mean by a white tag) for a number of years in elected and appointed positions. I didn’t just get a state life membership, but I served on their board.

    Don’t try to “diss”me with your assertions about what I may or may not be doing. I know what it takes to be actively involved in my community and my state.

    I can certainly begin to tell Bwana and yourself about the Jaycees. Neither of you said anything about the sad state of membership and leadership that has driven the organization down.

    But my biggest gripe is this blogs linking Carl Rove’s resignation with what you may have experienced in your local Jaycee chapter in your time. We didn’t do it in my time and Bwana is maligning all of us who worked hard the entire year. In my day, the one’s you two describe would never have been elected to higher office. We wouldn’t have allowed it.

  6. Old JC is incorrect when he claims I malinged those who worked hard during entire jaycee program years.

    Perhaps he should reread the post, and then note the difference between what I wrote (talking about Rove and those I saw in the Jaycees who did not finish strong) and what he for some reason wants to think I wrote.

  7. Well, since this is going to be about who is better than whom, older Jaycee, fine you fought the wars and did it all and you are just the greatest thing since sliced bread!! (Even though you chose to use the term “diss”. Sure, that’s an intelligent term)
    And Fine, I think it is just criminal what has happened to the Jaycees, my old chapter just folded after 60 years of serving the community. Twice, along with other exhausted roosters and pooped pullets, we worked with a few to keep it going, but it just didn’t last. Is it a lack of leadership? Yes and no. When I was active and recruiting did I bother to share the knowledge of how to organize a project, do the paperwork or did I help others to train on effective chapter operations? Apparently, not enough. However, the younger Gen X’ers that I saw coming into the organization were more about helping themselves, then helping others. Who’s fault is that? Lets face it I joined the Jaycees because I like the feeling of helping people I don’t even know and trying to make life better for those who were not given the benefits I have. The Jaycees I knew, had a similiar focus and I do not get that feeling with young Adults today. The hope I see is in the kids in junior high and high school, who because of events in the news have realized that we need to help others in order to help ourselves. When those people become of Jaycee age, if it is still around, then maybe we will see a ressurgence of Jaycees and other Service organizations around the country. I sure hope so.

    Bwana Fan In Vienna

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