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New Mountains to Climb

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International President Chanceller Bob Corlew

The sights and sounds of my home state of Tennessee are many and varied. From the sounds of the mighty Mississippi River in the far western part of the state, to the sounds of agriculture and industry in middle Tennessee, to the sounds of the wildlife in the Appalachians in eastern Tennessee, all are distinct and representative of warm, southern hospitality. The sounds of the waters of the Mississippi in the far northwestern part of Tennessee, and further south, the wail of blues music on Beale Street in Memphis, are gentle reminders of the distinctive part of west Tennessee.

Further east, in the central or "middle" part of the state, the relatively flat landscape gives way to the rolling hills that characterize the portion of the state which gave rise to country music. The sound of the banjo, guitar, and mandolin which dominate the hills surrounding Nashville for years have inspired the dreams of many a rural Tennessee farmer. Printers Alley and Music Row are well-known names in the land which has earned the name "Music City, USA." The sounds of agriculture then give way to the sounds of industry as one moves further east to Knoxville and the transportation city of Chattanooga. Just east of those sprawling cities begin the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, which dominate the entire landscape of eastern Tennessee. Throughout the day, one can hear the frequent call of the coveys of quail-"bob, bob white"-interrupting the otherwise calm of the rural and even pristine landscape in some parts of the state. And then, when evening comes, as the sun sets behind the mountains, one can hear the lonely call of the whippoorwill, or the haunting howl of a coyote in the distance. Near small hamlets, the sound of banjos, guitars and fiddles ring like echoes, calling people home. As summer gives way to autumn, the hills and mountains become a splendor of color, as native maple, tulip poplar, birch, ash, chestnut, oak, and hickory trees turn russet, orange and yellow. Then as autumn becomes winter, the leaves give way to a blanket of snow, pierced only by the bare tree trunks and also the beautiful greenery of the cedar trees which dot the landscape.

The hills and mountains that form the backdrop of my home create a unique atmosphere. The natural boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains formed over many generations a distinct culture with specialized dialects, a unique cuisine and a tradition of storytelling. I come from a strong stock that enjoyed and valued their privacy. They built their homes on the mountains and down in the "hollers" of Tennessee's beautiful landscape. In doing so, they isolated themselves from the rest of the country and what was considered the mainstream of American life.

This relative isolation inspired an independent spirit among those who settled here. An unintended result of the solitude of these mountain communities was the bond that formed among people in this sparsely populated region. A cooperative nature evolved into a tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, of stranger helping stranger. The tradition of volunteering became so pervasive, that when the still young United States' independence was challenged in the early 1800's, it was the settlers of the region now known as Tennessee who volunteered in large numbers to defends its sovereignty owing to Tennessee forever to be known as "the Volunteer State." The volunteer spirit continues to be prevalent in Tennessee. "People helping people" is a phrase which continues to characterize the attitude of many a Tennessean. It is rare that one walks by another who fails to greet him or her with a cheery "good morning" or, in the smaller towns, a "howdy, neighbor." And in the tiny communities of the state, the driver of every vehicle is met by a warm, friendly waive of the hand as he passes another vehicle. Though times have changed, and old traditions have given way to modern technology, the historic friendliness that characterizes Tennessee remains. As times have changed, new challenges have arisen. New and different opportunities for service have become apparent. New ways for the generous to give have come to the forefront. Despite the modern times, the old volunteer spirit remains in the hearts of most Tennesseans. The traditions I hold dear from my boyhood in Tennessee, and the independence passed on from my ancestors who overcame many challenges as they built a life in the foothills and mountains surrounding them, inspired me to choose "New Mountains To Climb" as my presidential theme. Climbing a mountain is used as a metaphor for many daily situations people confront.

It represents something that is difficult and arduous and that takes a maximum effort to scale. But it is only by climbing those mountains that we ever excel to our fullest. Each mountain represents a new challenge-a new opportunity. As our world continues to change, each of us face new challenges-new opportunities to serve others. Blindness, measles, other health risks, food insecurity, lack of clean water, war and civil unrest-all represent challenges for countless people around the world, and they represent opportunities for Lions as we work to make the world a better place. Lions must continue to climb upward, finding new ways to serve. Every mountain represents a new opportunity for Lions, and scaling each mountain provides each of us a chance to make the world better for another person.

As we commence a year of celebrating 100 years of community service - honoring our past and embracing our present - it is our future that we must plan and begin to forge. Our future is bright. But speaking metaphorically, if we are to ascend the next mountain, we must lay out a trail in front of us; we must mark our trail for future generations of Lions who follow, and preserve our tradition of service.

 

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Reaching the top of a mountain is not the end of a journey; its the beginning of another. A new opportunity

We lead through service. That is our strength. We are a network of community leaders who have seen the result volunteer service can bring, and the value that volunteers provide to their communities.

We must continue to assess our service initiatives and programs offered by LCI to ensure we have a unified vision in which service programs drive the purpose of our organization, and as a result, grow our membership, increase member satisfaction, allow for more meaningful partnerships and increase public awareness. Ultimately, we must continue to lead through service and enhance our position as the global leader in humanitarian service.

Lions have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of communities worldwide. Think of all the ways that Lions make a difference in day-to-day life:

Environment:

Lions help to keep ourneighborhoods, streets, parks, rivers, green spaces, and water clean and safe for everyone.

Youth:

Lions tutor, teach, mentor, coach, and support young people with everything from math homework to dealing with personal crises to football and soccer tournaments.

Hunger:

We work on our own and with other agencies to stem food insecurity.

Vision:

Lions work on many levels to fight preventable blindness and provide much needed services to the blind and visually impaired.

Lions are critical partners of and participants in societies throughout the world.

Ask yourself this question:

What would my community be like if there had never been a Lions club? What would our cities, towns, state/provincial parks, schools, and libraries look like? What basic needs would go unmet? What opportunities to grow, learn, and thrive as a society would be lost? That is a world that is hard to imagine, and difficult to measure.

Fortunately, we don't have to imagine a world without Lions clubs. As we approach 100 years of service, our footprint of service has grown beyond what Melvin Jones could have possibly foreseen Lions continue to adhere to the two words that define us - our reason for being and the very essence of our existence - "We Serve." And Lions embrace new challenges and new opportunities to serve others. No mountain is too high. As we began our centennial celebration at the 2014 International Convention in Toronto, we asked Lions to climb the next mountain - to serve at least 100 million people in four areas - Youth, Vision, Hunger and the Environment - by June 30, 2018. Lions responded as only Lions do, with enthusiasm and determination. In only the first year we achieved more than one third of our goal. And now, as we conclude the second year of our Centennial Service Challenge, we are well past the two thirds mark, and positioned nicely to meet and exceed our goal.

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