Shifting Seats

Moving to a new job doesn’t mean the end of old relationships. Your circle has just expanded!

A couple years ago, I was upset that some families we were close to had left our church. A wise elder said it was OK, sometimes people just need to switch seats. They continue to be part of the larger “church.”   That same wisdom applies to relationships established in the work world, I guess. In the past 18 months I’ve shifted seats a couple of times — once when I didn’t really want to — and now my circle has expanded.  I get to know and appreciate a new crowd even as I strive to maintain ties with those I called “friend” at my workplace.

Yesterday I was asked to write up some memories of one person I worked with, Cindy, who is celebrating five years at Amway Corp.  Here’s what I sent to her current manager:

I met Cindy when we both served on the WMPRSA board in the early 2000s. She impressed me as smart, competent and accountable. She got things done. Plus she was nice. A few years later, when we had an opening for a new editor at Quixtar, Cindy applied and I was thrilled to be able to bring her on staff.  Very quickly she became one of the superstars in Communications…she made every team she joined better, not just because of what she contributed, but because of the impact she had on others. Her team members became better because she helped them focus and because she was such a great example.

Later, organizational shifts changed reporting relationships and the editorial team reported to a creative director while I managed external communications, including PR, advertising, digital marketing, and sponsorships. Again Cindy applied for an opening on my staff, this time managing all things digital, and again I didn’t have to think twice about welcoming her aboard. She moved into the new role and immediately whipped Amway U.S. social media and digital outreach programs into shape, working with outside agencies and internal partners. 

I am glad Cindy and so many others I managed continue to contribute their strong talents to the ongoing global success of Amway. I often feel like my biggest achievement during an 18-year Amway career was the great people I brought into the company. And among the greatest of those is Cindy. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s been only five years for her given all that she’s already accomplished within Amway (not to mention having two kids in that same period of time!). 

…I can’t begin to single out a “favorite memory” with Cindy or with any of the great people I worked with at Amway. I enjoyed my staff and many of my peers throughout my years at Amway and loved nearly every minute of being with the company. At least, I think I did. I guess it must have been pretty good if my “afterglow” memories are so favorable!

At Davenport, I have the pleasure of managing Rick (who has considered Cindy a mentor in the past) and Sasha.  We had a late afternoon meeting yesterday to talk about what we’ve already accomplished since I joined the university in September as well as the opportunities that still lie ahead for us.  Thinking about the staffs I’ve worked with in the past and the one I work with today made me realize that all of us are always shifting seats somewhat, but that doesn’t mean we have to change who we are and what we bring to the table.  And it doesn’t mean we have to lose our old connections, either. Social media helps us stay in touch. So do industry gatherings, community events, and good old-fashioned “let’s do lunches.”

Although my new life is very full, schedule-wise, I need to make time to stay in touch with those  I used to (and still) call “friend” at Amway Corp. I saw some of them at a WMPRSA meeting this past week and at holiday gatherings last month. I do have the occasional lunch with these friends.  I hope to see more of them all in the weeks and months ahead!

Bill Martindill, The S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy

Bill Martindill, member of the Improvement Association, unofficial mayor of Porter Hills, and friend to underemployed PR professionals, passed away this week at the ripe and wonderful age of 100. God rest his S.O.U.L.

Early this week I found myself researching and writing about Peter Cook, a successful West Michigan business owner, Davenport alumnus, former DU board member and generous supporter.  Peter was among a group of men and women who helped create the Grand Rapids we know and enjoy today.  Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working for or with great members of that group, including Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, Fred Meijer, Peter Secchia, and others.

Last year around this time, I met one of the lesser known members of that great group of philanthropists — Bill Martindill.  I wrote an article about him for Grand Rapids Magazine.  Bill was a driving force behind a project called “The S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy,” a documentary about giving in West Michigan, which included interviews of men like Meijer, DeVos, Cook, Ralph Hauenstein, Harvey Lemmen, and others.  Several of these men, including Cook and Martindill, were members of a group called “The Improvement Association,” which has always consisted of 12 men since it was formed within the Peninsular Club in the 1940s.  When a member passes away, a new member is invited to join.  Sadly, two seats opened this week.

I was reading an article about the passing of Peter Cook on one page and, turning to the next, I was struck by a smaller article about the passing of Bill Martindill.  I literally gasped.

Bill turned 100 in April, when he also celebrated 77 years of marriage to his 99-year-old bride, Inetta.  When I met Bill in October 2009, he was thrilled to have someone sit and listen to his stories.  An interview that normally would last an hour took four hours with Bill.  A return visit to drop off a booklet he had shared with me took another two hours.  He then invited me to meet with someone who had project managed the S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy project.  He hoped the connection between us two “youngsters” would be mutually beneficial, in terms of our separate consultancies.  He then asked me to meet with the head of a security company that might need PR help.

Bill wandered the halls of Porter Hills, which he helped found back in the ’60s, as if he were the mayor. In fact, he sort of was the mayor of Porter Hills.  He headed up the finance committee that raised the money to build it.  When he sold Michigan Litho in the 1970s to retire, he served as volunteer CEO for Porter Hills, helping establish the first center to provide care to those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s.  He then led the fundraising and provided the lead gift to name Porter Hills’ health center.

I want to re-watch the “S.O.U.L. of Philanthopy” video Bill gave me so that I can see him again and remember the way he told stories.  I’m sad because I wanted to see him again soon to talk about how my life has changed a year later.  I know he was genuinely concerned for me last year around this time because I had only gotten started with my PR business and didn’t have a lot of clients yet. 

My thoughts and prayers are with Inetta, who will be on her own for the first time in more than 77 years.  I’m thinking about the Improvement Association, dealing with the loss of two members in one week.  And my thoughts are with the Porter Hills community, which lost its mayor.  God rest your S.O.U.L., Bill.

A Year in the Life

In a few weeks I start the next chapter of my career at Davenport University as Executive Director of Communications.

The day after Labor Day I begin the next chapter in my professional career when I report to Davenport University as the newly appointed Executive Director of Communications. I’m excited to be joining a university that is “on the grow.” With a brand new campus near the junction of M-6 and M-37 just south of Gerald R. Ford International Airport, there’s a new excitement surrounding Davenport and the programs it operates statewide.

The position will provide a wonderful opportunity to contribute strategically to the university, and I look forward to sharing more about what I’ll be working on after I start!  Meanwhile, I’m working on finishing up assignments for some of my Luymes PR LLC clients, including LEAD Marketing Agency, Brann’s Steakhouse & Sports Grille, the Alliance For Health, IMN Inc.,, and more. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with so many great companies this past year.  From Adoption Associates to Zondervan, West Michigan is blessed with quality organizations.

My Davenport start date is just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of my last day at Amway Corp. It’s been a great year learning what it means to be an independent consultant, to be an entrepreneur, to service clients even as you seek new ones. This past year was marked by the generosity of so many others who gave of their time and counsel to me, referring business, and offering unlimited encouragement.  While starting a new business is always difficult and typically not so profitable in the beginning, I am happy that I was able to come out on the plus side and have such a rich experience as well!

This story, I am certain, is to be continued!

Ten Things I Hate

My own Top Ten list of things I hate.

I’ve seen so many Top Ten lists lately that I needed to do one of my own. I was sitting at The Office (aka Sparrows), thinking, when one table of loud talkers got me thinking. Here are the things that make my “Ten Things I Hate” list:

  1. Coconut: I’ve never liked it. It’s not as much the flavor as the chewy consistency. So, no Mounds bar for me, thanks.  No chocolate cake with white icing sprinkled with coconut (it’ll just get scraped off). The funny thing is that my mom was born and raised in Indonesia (she’s dutch) and coconut was a big ingredient in Indonesian food, some of which she made for us.  I wasn’t buying into it.
  2. Inappropriate Loud Talkers: This is especially true at a quiet coffee shop where 98% of the patrons are quietly surfing on their laptops or engaged in pleasant, quiet conversation. Enter the loud ones. Especially when one person is talking excitedly and the other two are screeching in appreciative laughter. I have nothing against loud talking or loud screeching laughter. It’s just that there’s a time and place for everything.
  3. Unnecessary/Gratuitous Cursing:  It’s my upbringing, I know, but loosely dropping the F-bomb into conversation just grates against my sensibilities and makes my shoulders slightly rise and my neck to get tense. Frankly, that reaction makes use of the F-bomb very effective when trying to get someone’s (my) attention, but that reaction lessens if you use it all the time, right? I don’t want to become immune to the F-bomb.  I want it to remain a very effective tool in the hands of those who might like to pull it out once in awhile to get my full attention.  Also, I think it makes the F-bomb user seem unsophisticated, at times uneducated, and typically lacking in self-control. That’s especially a problem when they’re hanging out with my kids.
  4. Bureaucracy:  I’ve had so many experiences with bureaucracy that it almost makes me want to escape to some cabin in Montana and live off the land and off the grid. I’m a Canadian, which means I’ve dealt with the Immigration & Naturalization Service to live here in the states. It needs to be done, I know, but man is it a drag. My favorite (not) experience was driving to Detroit super early in the morning (I checked online first to make sure it was the place I needed to go) and, upon arrival, they said the place I needed to go was two blocks away.  So, I entered another long line  there (my earliness wasted) and, after finally getting to speak with someone inside, they asked why I didn’t just go to the INS office in Grand Rapids. “WHAT! I checked online!” I exclaimed.  “Oh, they’re about a half year behind on updating the web site,” said the INS official. 
  5. Naysayers:  It’s always a drag when that one person (you know which one) responds that whatever plan you’ve come up with cannot be done. Either there’s not enough money or not enough time or not enough expertise or not enough support or … well, something. It’s especially annoying when the “can’t be done” comes out quickly and without even exploration of ways it *could* be done. Pretty soon, that spirit of negativity permeates everyone and the creative fires have been extinguished.
  6. Pollyannas:  This one pairs up well with the previous dislike.  Being a Pollyanna (ala the lead character of a 1913 book and 1960 Disney movie of that name) is to be overly optimistic. I’m not against optimism by any means. I truly appreciate positivity and a great attitude. I really, really do, and I try to practice it in my life. But you still have to deal with very real issues and, sometimes, that means getting your hands dirty.  Pollyannas are too often blind-sided because they refuse to acknowledge and deal with issues. Optimism doesn’t mean abandonment of pragmatism or understanding the hurdles that exist.  
  7. Corporate Gamesmanship:  This one, based on experience, is based on manipulating people and systems to “get ahead,” perhaps at a pace not in keeping with actual talent. Many might disagree and say the work world is just a big game and those who play it the best win. I agree with that statement, actually.  Talented and hard-working individuals should win!  Not because they worked the system better, but because they did their jobs better and were recognized by those in charge.  Given human nature, I don’t think this will ever go away.  There is a huge waste of productivity that comes with all the gamesmanship going on in corporate America, however.
  8. Political Extremists:  I believe in ideals. But ideals don’t help you get things done because there often are others with opposing ideals fighting for their own agendas.  Along with your beliefs about what would be ideal, you need to be able to sacrifice some of your vision to achieve solutions that work for people on opposite sides of an issue.  Otherwise there’s a societal standoff, like the way the U.S. is currently divided as Red Nation/Blue Nation. I come to dread the election period because of all the vitriol. There is no civil dialog about opposing ideas anymore. Both sides insist they’re 100% right and neither will give an inch.  At least, both “extreme” sides (the ones that get all the press) are that way.
  9. “Top Ten” Lists:  Does everything come in tens? What’s the fascination with coming up with 10 things to include in a list. Why not Top Nine lists? I guess using the 10 as the basis for our lists is very metric.
  10. Hate:  And, my biggest dislike is “hate.” Hate is so extreme. It is so squinty-eyed and snarling. It is hard to come back from hate. It is hard to be about love and peace and unity and collaboration and togetherness and community and all the things we call “good” when hate is given free reign.  

So, there you have the Ten Things I Hate.  Lots of inconsistencies, I know. Like, why 10 things when that annoys me? Why hate, when I’m opposed.  I probably have some extreme views and know for a fact that I’ve been referred to as a naysayer (was secretly nicknamed Eeyore by a few marketers because I opposed the blackhat SEO practices they wanted) and a Pollyanna for being so optimistic. I know my wife has shushed me many times for talking too loud. I’ve even cursed inappropriately before. Yes, me.

I will stand firm on coconut, though. I really, really don’t like it.

The Ad Men of Mad Men Turn to PR?

AMC’s Mad Men returns to television tomorrow night. Looks like the ad guys of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce need some PR help!

No, I haven’t seen an advance script of tomorrow night’s season premiere of Mad Men, but I’m going to make some educated prognostications based on the brief description of the episode and its title, “Public Relations.”

Back in the ’60s, PR was much less “developed” as a profession. Today, nearly 50 years later, Public Relations is still less defined than I’d like, based on the fact that its practitioners come from a myriad of backgrounds and are asked by their organizations to practice in a myriad of manners. Typically, however, communicating with public audiences with a heavy emphasis on earned media are part of the profession. Also, there is that tendency to turn to PR when a crisis strikes (as opposed to using good PR practices to all along to earn trust and goodwill).

AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.
AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.

SO, how are Don Draper and cohorts going to use Public Relations? Sounds like the agency of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in some trouble after a Draper gaffe and, just guessing, they need some PR help.  I’m hoping the agency actually hires a new PR person (need some new characters!) and they start to demonstrate integrated marketing campaigns. That would be novel (and way ahead of the times)! 

I’m guessing, however, that the firm has a “public relations crisis” that affects client confidence and Don and crew fix it themselves. There’s nothing those ad guys can’t do, right?

Burmese Tiger Pit Diggers & PR Pros

Companies are hiring social media managers. I hope they’re more like public relations professionals and less like Burmese tiger pit diggers.

According to a BusinessWeek article, companies are scrambling to hire “social media managers.”  Moreover, they’re doing so with little understanding of what that means, and creating new job titles to describe these new positions.

I’d like to contend, again, that these organizations probably already have social media managers on staff. They’re called “public relations professionals.”  I do understand that social media isn’t just another media channel.  I also understand that you can’t take PR people who have primarily done media relations all their life and magically make them social media savvy.  But I don’t think we need to create a whole new silo within organizations; we need to effectively use the disciplines we have in place!  Marketers can be engaged in the conversation online about their brands. And if they want to create new conversations with key publics (i.e., social media users) about their products or their businesses, they should turn to their PR staff because that’s what they already do!

When I left my last job and started positioning myself for clients, I was told I should market myself as “social media.” To me, that’s like marketing myself as “television” or “talking.” Social media is one way to talk to your key audiences, but not the only way (and not always the right way). That said, I believe it’s vital for PR practitioners to know how to create social media programs to leverage their brands’ assets. PR is about influencing and the game of influence is definitely gaining a social media flavor.

I’ve been involved in creating social media programs for a billion-dollar sales company and for smaller organizations. It requires 1) approval from top execs and legal, with understandings in place about what will and will not be discussed, 2) a commitment to be honest, open and transparent in all communications (HOT comms) with your audiences, and 3) resources equipped, capable, and empowered to communicate on behalf of the organization/brand. 

This is not a time to place the brand conversation in the tweeting hands of an intern. They can help, for sure, but a community isn’t going to magically develop around an anemic effort by the company.  Consumers want to talk to representatives who are truly knowledgeable AND who also have the ability to carry messages back to decision-makers within the organization.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  People won’t sign up just to hear your messages; they also want to be heard

PR is the discipline trained and paid to engage publics in a dialog. Let them do it!  That dialog leads to support for your organization/brand.  Some execs want the social media “managers” to go out and create Burmese tiger pits, where unsuspecting passersby fall into a trap and are then expected to make a purchase.  Creating tweet “teasers” and Facebook contests might generate traffic and maybe a very small percentage will make a purchase, thereby justifying the expense.  There’s room for this kind of activity, but that’s not community. Once the giveaways go away, so do the followers. Community involves creating something better, together.

SO, I hope the “social media managers” being hired turn out to be PR people with a different title rather than Burmese tiger pit diggers. Otherwise companies are just wasting their money (again).

The PR of Evangelism

The public relations aspects of evangelism are really about understanding others’ needs.

Yesterday I sat down at a coffee shop on Grand Rapids’ west side (The Bitter End) to kill a few hours while Conner took his class in Mackinaw Harvest’s sound studios. A copy of USA Today was lying on a table next to me, so I checked it out and found an interesting Forum piece by Tom Krattenmaker titled “How to sell Christianity? Ask an atheist.”  Krattenmaker writes about “recovering evangelist” Jim Henderson, who learned from atheists all of the common practices of evangelicals that turn non-Christians off.

I don’t think that Henderson is less of an evangelical today. He just approaches evangelism differently.  He allows *who* he his and *how* he is in relationship to *you* to be the message.  He doesn’t come at you with a sales pitch. He comes to you with his hands open, palms up, being who he is and demonstrating a true interest in you, REGARDLESS of your response to him.  It doesn’t matter if you become a Christian or not, he will still be interested in you because, after all, that’s what God has called for Christians to do. Love others as you love yourself.

After intentionally talking with atheists, Henderson discovered all the things that Christians do that turn people off.  Things like “I’m right, you’re wrong” and referring to non-believers as “lost.”  I also loved Krattenmaker’s assertion that “if you want to have influence … you have to be willing to be influenced. … If not, would anyone want a conversation with you?”  It’s true in religion, politics, and just about every sphere of life: Don’t discount my thoughts, my ideas, my experience. I want to hear about yours, but you need to listen to mine, too.  That’s really important in Social Media, by the way. It’s OK to want your ideas to be heard, but to get there you’re going to need to listen and respond to the ideas and expriences of others, too.

Good public relations involves research and understanding your target audience, so it’s not much of a surprise to me that evangelicals, when considering a PR approach, need to do a better job of understanding their audiences and refining messages and approach. Too often organizations turn off their target audiences because their messages sounds too much like a sales job. This is true for Christians on a “mission” to convert non-believers and it’s true for sales companies looking to convert the general public into buying consumers.

I think the best sales approaches are the ones that don’t have to try to hard to get people to nod their assent.  Instead, people are attracted to the organization or the product because it solves a need in their life. The person or program representing that entity has made themselves available and open to the target audience. In the process, you might tell your story or you might create a lasting impression, but you do not hit them over the head with it in a way that makes their eyes glaze over.

The most effective examples of evangelization to me are those who strive to “be” the message. Here I am, an (oh so) imperfect man, saved by the grace of God alone, because he loves me and all of mankind. I fail Him all the time in my response to circumstances around me and the choices I make, but He does not fail me.  This gives me peace.  Now, tell me about you. What do you want to talk about?  I want to know you better and find out how I can help you! No strings attached.

Mother Teresa was a good example. I have no doubt that her mission also was to expand God’s kingdom and to witness unto others. But her approach was to minister to the needs of those in Calcutta. Of course, the needs there were so extreme and obvious, it was perhaps a more obvious approach than here in North America, where the needs of an otherwise healthy, well-off non-believer may lie below the surface.

Opinions about what public relations is will vary depending on who you talk to. For some, it’s the function that tries to get media mentions for brands or organizations. For others, its the party-planning function. Some think it’s speechwriting. Others think it’s “spinning” a bad situation good…convincing you the “rightness” of my point of view.  For me, what PR does is in the name. PR relates to publics. That means we know the publics and they know us. We can empathize with those publics and understand their needs. We have an open, two-way communication based on mutual respect. I want to introduce myself, get to know you, understand how I can help you, and let  you know when I need your help. 

Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it?

PR and Social Media

PR is strategy; Social Media is tactic. To me, Social Media is best managed within the organization by PR.

I’ve had many conversations about PR and its use of social media.  It’s been discussed in various chats on Twitter as well as at conferences.  On a few occasions now I’ve heard people talk about the PR work that they do managing a client’s social media account. I do believe wholeheartedly that managing a social media account for an organization should be under the direction of the public relations discipline. 

The social media engagement, however, should not constitute an organization’s complete PR program.  Perhaps there are a few organizations out there that can get away with that, but to create a mutually beneficial experience for an organization and its target publics, more than tweeting will be necessary. Meanwhile, people who haven’t been trained in public relations and really don’t fully comprehend what PR is shouldn’t claim to fulfill an organization’s PR needs simply because they track friends and fans and followers in Facebook and Twitter.

Some of this was part of what Jenny Luth and I talked about at the Grand Rapids Social Media (GRSM) lunch event yesterday. A good group joined us for the excellent dialog about roles and responsibilities in social media and what constitutes effective PR for an organization.

Not Meant to be Alone

We were not meant to be alone in this world. We have ears to listen and a mouth to talk. Social media can help ensure that nobody suffers from loneliness.

People are not made to be alone. They are inherently social beings. That is my belief, anyway.  I know there are loners and hermits. Often, however, they are that way because their earlier attempts at being social went awry or, in the case of religious loners, it is to enhance their relationship with God. The Unabomber was alone, and look how that turned out!  Tom Hanks was alone in Castaway. But it wasn’t right! He made friends with a volleyball and then risked it all just to be reunited with others.

Being cast away, alone, separate from others. It’s not right. God made us with the ability to communicate so that we could, well, communicate! He gave us ears to listen to what others have to say.  He gave us a mouth with vocal chords so that we could share. He gave us tears  to sympathize. He gave us hands to hold.  Wow, I could keep going on forever with that sappiness, couldn’t I?  

Social media has obviously had a huge impact on how people communicate.  People who were otherwise social now are more social or perhaps social in different ways and with more people. I think the bigger change, however, is that some people who were otherwise reclusive, or at least less social, now have the ability to communicate with others in low-risk ways. I think there are some people active in social media who would not have thrived as well in the pre-Web 2.0 world.

I think of the guys at one party I went to in college who were watching Monty Python’s Holy Grail in the living room, reciting each line, singing each song. When the movie was shut off halfway through, they looked up, blinking, not quite sure how to interact with others in the room.  I think in today’s Web 2.0 world they’d be chatting it up with like-minded Holy Grailians, making plans for a tweetup in NYC to watch Spamalot on Broadway.

More importantly, there are people who really have led miserable lives who can now find others who will talk to them and help. People who don’t know where else to go with their problems now find listening ears (provided they search … some on Twitter won’t follow you back unless you have a blue-and-white ‘verified’ mark on your profile pic). People who might find it hard to converse face-t0-face might actually experience what social interaction is all about and, perhaps, find ways of translating that into their real lives.

I think there are fascinating studies to be conducted, if they’ve not already been done, to see what social media’s affect on rates of reclusivity.  There are many human conditions that impact quality of life, and I think that social media can help with one of them: being alone. We were not meant to be alone, and now there are more ways to ensure that we can move out of that condition and into a full life complete with social interaction.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. We need to extract full value by engaging in our communities.

I had to write a speech for a Memorial Day event tomorrow. The process of researching and writing made me think a little more about what Memorial Day means here in the U.S.

Growing up in Canada, we didn’t have Memorial Day.  In fact, in Canada, last weekend was the holiday and it was Victoria Day. Growing up, however, we always called it the May Two-Four Weekend. Usually it was around May 24, and usually it was camping with a “two-four” (aka, a 24-pack of beer). Canada’s memorial for soldiers and the price they paid is called Remembrance Day, and it falls on November 11, commemorating the German signing of the Armistice ending WWI at 11 a.m. on 11/11/1918.  King George V declared it a holiday thereafter, and throughout the Commenwealth it was called various things, including Poppy Day.

Why Poppy Day? Well, that goes back to the poem written by a Canadian, John McCrae, called In Flanders Fields. It’s a classic poem, written by a medic who served in WWI. It goes like this:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In Canada, we wore poppies to remember those who had died in wars defending Canada (and, presumably, the rest of the British Commonwealth). They placed poppies upon the grave of the unknown soldier on Remembrance Day.

Here in the U.S., Memorial Day really began after the Civil War, with various communities claiming to have begun its practice. Originally called Decoration Day, it was a time to decorate the graves of those slain in the Civil War. Today, Memorial Day is one in which Americans remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy today. 

The ultimate way to demonstrate respect for the price others paid is to be *engaged.*  To utilize the freedoms that were won for us.  That includes voting in elections … a freedom many around the world seek but Americans take for granted. That includes freedom of speech … saying what you think and being respectful of the fact that others have that same right.  That includes freedom to worship … how and Who you want.  So … Vote! Speak! Worship! 

At 3 p.m., people are asked to provide a moment of silence for those who died in the uniform. After that moment of reflection and/or prayer, there’s a whole year in which you can remember those who paid the ultimate price for freedom by embracing and utilizing your freedoms, by volunteering and being an engaged member of your community, by respecting and celebrating others. By “community,” I also mean your Social Media community. It’s a great place to use your freedoms to speak and to engage with others. The price that was paid and continues to be paid is too great not to extract full value!