There is a program in our city, run by the local Chamber of Commerce, dedicated to training young up-and-coming leaders from a wide spectrum of career backgrounds. For our city, the program was dubbed Leadership Stockton. But don't think that is original with them. Fill in the blanks after the first word, Leadership, with the name of your own city, and you will likely discover the same program is being offered by your own Chamber of Commerce.
There are Leadership [fill-in-the-name-of-your-city-here] programs all over this country. If I had looked, upon our flight's arrival in Tampa last month, I'd have discovered there is a Leadership Tampa. If, instead of heading to the coast, I had traveled inland, I would have found a Leadership Omaha, for instance. Or Leadership Nashville. Wondering about a smaller town? How about Leadership Pocatello? You can almost cobble together an A through Z list of Leadership Programs—you know, from Leadership Albuquerque to Leadership Zanesville—except that Zanesville didn't join in with the meme. But at least there is a Leadership Yakima. Maybe that is close enough.
The basic idea of the program is to assemble a class of promising movers-and-shakers-to-be and take them through a series of classes providing a spectrum of the city's challenges and concerns. Leadership Pittsburgh, for instance, provides a typical list of topics their program focuses on:
Economic Development, Inclusion/Race Relations, Neighborhoods and Community Development, Local Government, Arts, Entrepreneurship, Transportation/Transit, Public Education...
And then, of course, the all inclusive last item on the list: "etc."
This, as it turns out, can make an impressive breadth of knowledge about what ails a city—and infuses participants with ideas on just what can be done, with the right know-how and will power. Which is exactly why city chambers of commerce sponsor such programs.
I pay some attention to what happens at our local program because my husband is quite vested in assisting with some of the training. Just before he left for this year's launching event—a weekend retreat in the mountains—it occurred to me to ask him something. The local program takes participants through an orientation of various community programs—everything from city government to health care to social services—but where was the inclusion of heritage? We certainly do want tomorrow's leaders to develop a healthy respect for preserving our local history—both the visible in the architecture and landmarks around us, and invisible via the significance of pioneers and founding individuals and families. How do these leadership programs present that heritage?
As it turned out—my husband followed up on that question—there is a segment in our local program that touches on heritage. Hosted at one local museum—mostly an art museum, but which includes some local history displays—one class segment gives a nod to the concept that history matters.
"But can't we have more?" was my plea. For this whiny proposal, I had two reasons. First, as a member of the board of our local genealogical society, I am—of course—enthusiastic about promoting what it is we do to preserve the local heritage through our educational outreach. But we had also just launched a First Families program jointly with the county's historical society—something we hoped would eventually grow to provide a resource informing our community of its heritage.
Nobody will know about these efforts, however, unless we speak up about them.
It's the same thing with reaching out to other organizations: find a nexus in mutual interests. Genealogical societies can find a willing audience of potential adherents to our pursuit in a number of places. Speaking about our society programs at retirees' organizations, for instance, would be a timely effort, for that is one time when people find their thoughts turning toward how to preserve their own family's stories. Likewise, since first-time parents also find themselves getting inspired to think about those family roots, offering to address groups of new moms and dads might be another ready-made source for future heritage advocates.
The more I look, the more I realize the hunger out there to learn about genealogy. Perhaps that interest is being turbo-charged by popular television programs such as the Genealogy Roadshow or Who Do You Think You Are? No matter what the inspiration, though, it certainly is worth grabbing the opportunity. I think a great deal about the notion of "passing it on"—in whatever form we can.
As for that leadership group at my city's chamber of commerce, apparently they were open to receiving more information, as well. If I can make the deadline and assemble a packet of community-wide resources for people interested in our city's heritage, I'm on.