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To Lead is to Serve

When the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21.org) annually surveys top organizations across the country, they ask the question, “What is the #1 Skill MISSING from new hires? ” The top answer is always: LEADERSHIP. Today’s young adults would rather be a cog in the wheel, than to be steering the wheel themselves. Why is that? Why such apathy, and a sense of helplessness that their input doesn’t make a difference? Psychologists suggest that seeing and hearing about self-made billionaires who invent Instagram and Facebook, while also seeing young people who can’t get jobs at all, creates an acute sense that it doesn’t really matter how hard they work, that life is one big crap-shoot.

Sad, but untrue. Life is what we make of it, and one person CAN make a difference in this world. Leadership opportunities abound that can influence change locally and globally. While not active in student government in high school or college, as an adult, I became a board member in the local chamber of commerce, volunteered for local environmental and youth groups, and became the President of the American Camp Association, in which I influence thousands of children’s summer camps and millions of children across the country. I have met and become friendly with numerous civic leaders. Many call them politicians, but they are public servants who dedicate their lives to helping make the world a better place. They serve in the same spirit that army soldiers serve their country, albeit within a flawed system.

Back to the kids…as parents and youth leaders, we need to encourage children to take on leadership roles. Being a class project leader, helping fellow classmates/teammates improve themselves, taking responsibility for chores at home, volunteering for local groups and good causes, and helping those in need – Remember that “to lead is to serve.”

While apathy may be on the rise, as people feel helpless in an unpredictable and sometimes scary world, kids need to hear the stories of great leaders, many rising out of challenging situations, who courageously take on problems that nobody thought could be fixed, and help fellow citizens who can’t help themselves. Senator Corey Booker became a city councilman in Newark (the largest city in NJ) at age 29, beat a long-time corrupt incumbent mayor at age 37, and became a US Senator at age 44. As mayor of Newark – a city like Camden or Trenton – Booker made significant strides to eliminate corruption, drug use and made the streets safer. Many say that he will one day become the President of the United States.

We all know plenty of smart and talented individuals, but very few that will ever value public service as important enough to dedicate their lives to. We only live once – YOLO, as the kids say. The best way to leave a legacy in this world is to influence positive, lasting change with people and society. It takes initiative, motivation, courage (and encouragement) to become a leader to make this happen!

Andy@libertylakedaycamp.com • www.libertylakedaycamp.com

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