Friday, October 31, 2008

Leadership to Inspire Northern New York?

Jefferson Community College held a Leadership Day on October 28th. On this day, students got an opportunity to talk to national, local and student leaders about developing their leadership skills. The keynote speaker was Jack Lengyel, former head coach of the Marshall University football team. The movie "We Are Marshall" is based on his story: how he helped a grieving community come together after a 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people, including most of the Marshall University's football team.

I commend JCC for having a Leadership Day. And having Mr. Lengyel speak is quite a coup. However, was Mr. Lengyel their best choice for inspiring leadership in Northern New York? I have an immense amount of respect for Mr. Lengyel, and hope he visits Northern New York again and often. But Northern New York has unique needs: unique economic needs and unique development needs. And for those particular needs, JCC's Leadership Day keynote speaker should have been someone keenly adept at addressing those needs.

Mr. Lengyels's leadership speech has universal ties to every community, this I understand, yet Northern New York is suffering "brain drain," with college graduates looking elsewhere for work, and very few young people interested in civic leadership. Couldn't JCC have chosen a keynote speaker that inspired JCC students to become entrepreneurs in Northern New York? Couldn't the speaker have been an elected official or community leader from Northern New York whose leadership rejuvenated a community? Couldn't they have found a leader that brought the community together to resolve its economic and development needs? Did the speaker have to be someone portrayed by Matthew McConaughey in a recent Hollywood film?

Imagine a speaker from Northern New York who not only provided JCC students with the inspiration and tools to make a positive difference in their hometown, but also was someone "from the area" they could regularly communicate with as they put their leadership plans to action.

I wonder if the student attendees of JCC's Leadership Day felt Mr. Lengyel's keynote speech equipped them with the necessary tools and direction to become positive leaders in their community. Or were they simply awed to be in the presence of someone with two degrees separation from Hollywood's Matthew McConaughey?

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