(This was written my presidential year on the national board for the NRLCA Juniors organization. It was published in the National Rural Carrier’s Association’s national magazine The National Rural Carrier.)
I believe that over the years of its existence, the Juniors have been a training ground for leadership – for myself and others. The very structure that organizes a board of fourteen to twenty-one year-olds offers a ladder of instruction, learning, and role models. This is what every former Junior president has meant when reflecting on their time in the Juniors. We list numerous experiences and impressive resumes built while away from convention, and so often we attribute these credentials to our experience on the board.
The more that I look back over my fourteen years of Nationals, the more change I can see in myself and my friends from the years. When I entered college, I decided to dive in. No hesitancy, no bashfulness. I was going to be myself and win people over with who I genuinely was. I had so often heard, “College is what you make of it,” and let me tell you: it was true. I have enjoyed my time in school immensely. I have also realized that this motto can be applied to nearly all areas of life – the Juniors more than most.
I do not see the question here to be, if the Junior board attracts students whose lives already display leadership qualities or if these are qualities developed over time as the they experience life through the framework of being on the board? If any objectivity is possible, let it be so when I say that the Juniors have had a long history of impressive presidents and charismatic board members. Those you have seen in the past, and I certainty hope in the future, are the cream of the crop. Public speaking, the ability to confer with higher ranking adults, planning, organization, professionalism, and group management are not skills usually found in fourteen through 16 year olds. Yet every year, the winner of the majority vote steps up to their spot in the batting order and to take their place on the board. There exits a system of four years of training to model and instill in them the qualities necessary for a leadership position such as Junior President.
The system begins its work, and one year later we return with a benefit you Association and Auxiliary members do not have. We grow – literally and figuratively. The amount of maturation and change I have seen in my peers over the years is astounding.
The system works, but despite its long-standing record there exists a flaw. It relies on a flawed people to make it function. No board member is perfect, and indeed one perfect board member could not make the board function on their own. It takes a considerable amount of effort from each seat. Fortunately, there are those who have gone before to show us the way.
I have enjoyed being a part of this organization and system since my childhood. Now, at twenty-one I will soon be saying goodbye to the Juniors – a natural part of the experience and one we Juniors are well accustomed to performing. This “Thank you” is said to grandparent, parent, and child alike, for your participation year after year. I will see you one more time in Grapevine. Thank you for the effort you put into the union and particularly the Juniors every year. Because after all, the Junior program is what you make of it.