Summer is upon us and I'm about to depart for the Annual Gathering in New Orleans. First I would like to thank all of you (6.1975% of Region 1 members to be exact) who took the time to vote in the regional election.
Second, an especial thank you goes to those who felt that I deserved a second term of office. I am humbled and gratified by your votes of confidence in me and hope that I can continue to earn the trust which you have placed in me.
For those of you who, for whatever reason, felt a leadership change was due, I hope that your opinion was based on solid fact, not the half-truths and innuendos that surfaced during the election period.
Like all the RVC (Regional Vice Chair) candidates, I was asked by the editor of Going Forward (an independent Mensa-oriented publication) to write a short essay in answering the questions "From your perspective, what is the role of local groups within American Mensa? Are they important? What steps would you take to implement your vision of local groups?"
My first reaction was to write a piece which would have mirrored the rosy picture the other candidates painted. I have been a member since 1976 and the Mensa of today is greatly changed. Having served on the AMC and seen more of the inner workings of Mensa's operations, I can say that yes, local groups are its life blood, but that blood is coagulating.
Over ten years ago my group (Greater New York Mensa Inc.) changed its election rules so that candidates effectively "run twice": for a specific office (Secretary, etc.) and also for Director. Why? Because we couldn't get enough people to run. It's been years since we have had contested elections. Our group is not alone, unfortunately. From national office down to local, it is becoming more and more difficult, impossible in many cases, to get people to run for office. (Of the 17 elected positions on the AMC, only 7 were contested.)
Once people get into office, they often stay for years, bound by a strong sense of duty and because no one is there to replace them. To me a healthy local group has active member involvement: people attending events, participating in running the group, a place where a new member feels welcomed.
For whatever reason, there are members who are never active. The lowball estimate is 80 percent. Out of over 2300 GNYM members, about 5 percent are active. From what I read in the other Mensa newsletters, that is not an unusual figure. Is what "vibrant local group" means?
I suggested in the Going Forward article that eliminating the local group structure might be a solution. Members living in a certain area could continue to meet. Those with similar interests would still have a way of getting in touch with fellow enthusiasts. The biggest change would be the lack of a "local" newsletter - perhaps it would be replaced by a regional one, and/or planned activities would be posted to a central site where searches could be done by interest, date, location, etc.
One big plus might be the elimination of the political wars that wreak havoc in groups; another would be the end of the "Volunteer Vacuum" - no more pleas to step forward to be on a committee or to run for local office. Scholarships go unrewarded because some local groups don't have Scholarship Chairs. Prospective members can't be tested because some local groups don't have Proctors. Local group officers often end up serving in multiple capacities (e.g. President and Editor and Treasurer) because there aren't any volunteers for these jobs.
I do not see this as anarchy. It means accepting the fact that most of our members didn't join to meet people who live (more or less) near to them and that perhaps their special interests are far more important to them than membership in a specific geographically defined group.
I have absolutely no desire to dismantle Mensa nor any local group, no matter how floundering. While there are some on the AMC who think Vermont Mensa should be history, I don't, if for no other reason than there are dozens of other groups in the same boat: lack of volunteer leaders, members, small number of members in a geographically dispersed area. I also see no reason why if one group is having problems, subsuming it into a neighbouring group will solve the problems. All that means is another overburdened LocSec/President administering to an even larger area.
Far too many Mensans spend their time criticising every idea that passes in front of them and doing nothing else. I got politically involved because I had questions that weren't answered and ideas that I felt needed airing. I learned at a young age that if I wanted change, I would have to be the instrument. I invite all of you, whether you agree with me or not, to become active members. This is your Mensa.
Bulgur wheat is a staple of the Near East. Like couscous, it requires little or no cooking, so it's excellent for hot weather dishes.This is an Iranian version.:
- Put all tabbouleh ingredients in large bowl and mix well.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- To serve: remove from refrigerator and mix well. Makes 4-6 servings.