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The Jaycee Experience

January 29, 2001

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi participated last week in a Worland, Wyo. radio show dedicated to the Jaycees. Sen. Enzi told of his own Jaycee experience and the benefits that can be realized by community and country. The following is a rough transcript of the interview with Sen. Enzi:

Host: To open our Jaycee salute here on KLKS and KWOR the gentleman with us is Mike Enzi, US Senator. And we had hoped to have him live with us but however we do it we want to get Sen. Enzi on this program. As we speak right now, Sen. you're on an airplane and where are you flying to?

Mike Enzi: I'm flying to Cheyenne. I have some meetings with the Legislature there and on Friday I usually visit some schools, then on Saturday I'm talking to a leadership training group which relates back to Jaycees, although it isn't a Jaycee group, and then doing some other Cheyenne meetings. I usually come out to Wyoming on Friday and fly back on Sunday because we vote Monday through Thursday. If I'm in Washington four days a week and Wyoming three days a week it uses up most of a week.

Host: It does pretty much take care of the week.

ME: Yes, and we do that again going back to some of the Jaycee training that you really need to talk to the actual people that are having the problem. Jaycees has been one of the great training grounds for me. When I was in it, it was primarily a young men's leadership organization. Actually, I got into it because I moved to Gillette, Wyoming just after I got married and my wife didn't know many people there. She was familiar with Jaycees because she had been a Junior Miss in Sheridan which was at that time sponsored by the Jaycees. At that time they had a women's organization called Jayceettes and so for her to be able to meet some people in Gillette, I joined Jaycees. Then I got all involved in the projects and moved up in the leadership positions. That has led to a lot of the different things that I've done in my life. I mentioned one of the great programs is the leadership training program. I was able to head that up, and did that on a state-wide level and was at a state meeting in Cody, Wyoming and Senator (Al) Simpson was the keynote speaker at that meeting. I gave my pitch on leadership training and how important it was and then Senator Simpson gave his fantastically humorous speech that made a point and after we were through speaking he took me by the elbow and led me over to the side and said, 'I don't even know what party you're in, but if you want to do this youth leadership stuff, put your money where your mouth is and get into politics. I'd suggest you take a look at being Mayor of Gillette.' I mentioned that to my wife on the way home from the Cody meeting. She was driving and she kind of drove down into the barrow pit and back up onto the road. After that we talked about it seriously and talked about the way we might be able to make a difference in Gillette. I ran for office there. I was new to the community. I was 29 years old and I thought Gillette needed planning. None of those are really good criteria for running for office in Wyoming. But the people saw the need for the planning and, something that I learned from Gillette, agendas at council meetings, the council meetings ran interminably and I had learned from Jaycees to do agendas so everybody knew what was going to be discussed and in what order. Then they could get backup documents that would provide additional information so that everybody would be well informed when we got to the topic and so I ran on balanced budgets, agendas and planning. I put all those into effect using a book that I got from the Jaycees, it was called The Officers and Directors Guide.

Host: I have one of those.

ME: And throughout all my careers I have used it. The one I'm using is the 1975-76 version of it.

Host: Mine's about 1982 or '83. Somewhere in there.

ME: I had this on my desk when I was mayor. I had it when I was down at the state legislature and I've got it here in Washington on my desk because the project planning section works no matter whether you're planning a business, or planning a civic project or planning legislation. It's something I picked up in the leadership training, got well versed on it when I was a Jaycee and still use it today. There are a lot of other things that Jaycees do. One of those is the Speak-Up program. I don't think that anyone can ever get enough encouragement or experience at speaking. Any of it they get will help them at some phase in their life. So, I really encourage the speak-up program as well.

Host: I heard it put one time that the best thing about...the hardest thing to ever do is to give a eulogy at someone's funeral but if you've had some speak-up experience at least you know how to stand in front of a crowd and speak.

ME: That's right. That's right. There are just a lot of times a person needs to be able to get their idea across to an individual or group and in both instances it's a speech. The training that you get through Junior Chamber of Commerce helps do that. I also have to mention Family Life Program. One of the things that we noticed when I was in Jaycees was that some of the people got so enthused and so involved and so dedicated to Jaycee's that they were having some difficulties at home. We decided that a program would solve that and dubbed it Family Life. It called for each family in Jaycees to set aside a special night when they would do family activities. We were able to get that adopted on a national basis and I think that it's still one of the programs today.

Host: It's still out there today...yes it is. You know, one of the things with the age change going from 21 to 40 plus is the fact that we are now a men's and women's organization. It has really brought the family more and more into the Jaycees. The Worland chapter has a lot of families in it. We do a lot of family activities here. So it's a big plus. I was in it back just before the women were brought into the organization there has been an awful lot of changes through the organization with it.

ME: Yes, uh-huh. Well, I do think that that's a prime one and one that people ought to concentrate on and we pass on some of the ideas that we got from that to other people now. One of them is establishing some family traditions. One of the family traditions that my wife and I established was having Sunday night as family night. We have popcorn night. We make popcorn and have Hershey's and play games or have some other family activity. My youngest child now is a senior at the University of Wyoming and they still like to have popcorn night. We have it even when we're separate from them and they have it when they're separate from us but we still call it a family night because we're all thinking about each other. It really helps to form some family bonds.

Host: Well, as long as we're talking about the Cowboys at Wyoming, how about those Cowboys? That basketball team. Have you been following them?

ME: Oh, I have. I have. Out here in the East when they do the weekday games it's a little hard to get back to Wyoming to see them but there are some mechanisms through the Internet that I can use back here so I've not only been following them but I've been listening to them.

Host: Well, you ought to take time to run down to Colorado and root for them on Saturday afternoon against Air Force.

ME: No, I won't get a chance to do that. I'm booked full on meetings.

Host: I'm just kidding.

ME: My time management that I also learned a little bit about in Jaycees has allowed people to crowd my schedule a little more than might be possible otherwise. My usual day goes at about 15 minute increments of having meetings now and I spend a lot of the night preparing for the next day.

Host: Well, Senator . . .

ME: I've got to mention a couple more things, here.

Host: You just keep right on rolling.

ME: One of them that was particularly helpful to me when I was mayor that I'd been involved in was a project that we had in Jaycees called Do Something. It was a community survey program. Now it wasn't the formal community survey, it was just where everybody in the chapter went out and asked all of their neighbors and anybody else they ran in to what they thought the community needed. Then that was brought back to a chapter meeting, it was put down, prioritized and the Jaycees figured out what they could do from that. It's something that all the communities in the United States need to do, to just get people involved in doing something, doing anything, things that are not generated toward them personally but generated toward helping someone else. Wyoming is a tremendous volunteer state. I think we have more volunteering than anywhere, but it's something that continually needs to be encouraged. Particularly among the youth of the country. We're becoming less and less of a volunteer country and part of that is because the kids aren't volunteering. If you ask a group of kids what they need they will tell you they need a teen center. But if you ask them what the community needs you will be astounded by their answers and their willingness to participate. That's another great thing that Jaycee's has done. I also need to mention the Jaycee creed. I do keep a framed copy of that on my desk. I think that if all that a person got out of Jaycees was the creed that everyone recites at the meeting that that would just be a tremendous boost to their life. I like the way that it's prioritized. I like the extent of it, the number of different things that it points out. It starts out with faith in God. It goes into brotherhood of man, economic justice, which gets into economic development. Then the one that I'm working on now is that government should be of laws rather than of men. In the last few years there has been a real emphasis on how our government, the United States, is a government of laws not decisions of man. I can see and feel the difference that makes. Of course service to humanity is the best work of life and that's an emphasis that Jaycees make. One of the things I'd like to emphasize to anyone who might be listening is if you're not in Jaycees or the Junior Chamber of Commerce, as it's now called, find out how you can be. If you are in Jaycees or the Junior Chamber of Commerce ask somebody to be in Jaycees. You can make a difference in their life. You can make a difference in the community and you can make a difference for everyone.

Host: Well, I had some questions for you but you answered everyone of them, Senator, so I guess I don't have any questions. How has the changing of the guard gone? Are you happy in D.C. with the changeover and everything?

ME: Yes. Absolutely. The changeover that we've had here has been a whole change of national feeling, a whole change of attitude and there's one of extreme preparation We knew with Dick Cheney involved in it that we would have that extreme preparation. He's the best listener that there probably is in Washington. He takes what he hears and he puts that into action and he's doing that on behalf of the President who establishes the priorities. They have not only gotten more people already approved for the cabinet positions they've already put some of the legislation into place. This is education week here and we're having a huge emphasis on education and how it ought to be done. We're talking about putting more flexibility in place. This will help the states like Wyoming that are really spread out and have less students than the urban areas. (States want the) ability to combine programs. (To put this in the right perspective) the federal government provides a very small part of the money. So (the federal government) really ought to just get the money that we've got out to the people that are at the local level so that they can make the decisions on behalf of the kids with the input from the kids. Wyoming has done an outstanding job, I think, in making sure that no child is left behind. One of the reasons I'll be meeting with the Wyoming legislature this weekend is that they are probably the foremost authorities in the United States on equalization of education. Most of the other states have not gotten in nearly that same position of making sure that all kids are taken care of. I've got to go back and refresh myself and borrow from them some of the things that they are going through as they solve education problems in Wyoming and those will have applicability to the federal laws that we pass here.

Host: Now, Senator, I don't know if you realize it or not but the Jaycees in Ashton are having a national meeting in Washington, D.C. as we speak. In fact our state president, Bob Hammond, is down there. They're doing the (inaudible) program, ten outstanding young Americans, which Dick Cheney is a past winner of that, we were kind of excited when we ran across his name in there. They're also doing their inauguration which will be going on as we're doing this program. A new national president who is the first female president in U.S. Jaycees history. Which is kind of really exciting.

ME: That ten outstanding young men program is an excellent program. When I was state Jaycee president one of the people who received that award, two of the people that received that award were Joe Biden of (Delaware) and Kit Bond of Missouri and I now serve with them in the United States Senate. They're being recognized for how young they received federal offices.

MW: It's amazing the who's who list that's on there.

ME: Yes, it is.

Host: Senator, we probably need to go and it was really great talking with you.

ME: Same here.

MW: You've got a busy schedule and we certainly thank you. You've added so much to this program and we opened up, I don't know what we're going to do to continue, but we're going to continue. With a start like this it's going to be a hard close but we'll get there.

ME: Anything I can do to help the Jaycees Junior Chamber of Commerce I will do. They've played just an extreme roll in my life and I owe them a lot.

Host: And they're very very important here in the Big Horn Basin. And we sure appreciate the things you've done for us, Mike, and the recognition you've given us over the years.

ME: Keep up the good work out there. I keep pointing out to people out here that nobody lives at the federal level, quite truthfully, they don't live at the state level they all live at the local level.

Host: That's true.

ME: That's where you function and that's where Jaycees function and that's what makes them such a great organization.

Host: Thank you, Senator.

ME: Thank you.