The speaker completed his talk at my Rotary meeting.
When I got up from my table to leave, a young man tapped me on my shoulder.
After introducing himself, he said, “Mr. Sher, I enjoy reading ComebackTown, but I was upset by one of your articles.”
He was referring to a piece I had written about Birmingham losing our large public companies and the community leaders we also lose. As a result, the remaining business executives are forced to assume multiple high level civic roles.
He complained that the Birmingham business community has created a ‘closed’ culture—not allowing young people the opportunity to grow into meaningful leadership positions.
He said he is disappointed with the Rotary Club of Birmingham–which I am a member.
He told me he currently belongs to the Rotaract Club.
Rotaract is a Rotary sponsored service club for young men and women ages 18 to 30. The Rotaract Club of Birmingham allows members to belong until age 35. He said he soon will be 35 and he will be required to leave the club.
He explained that he would like to grow his career within Rotary, but because he works for a large company, the Rotary Club of Birmingham limits the number of memberships to top corporate management—and he is not eligible.
He said he knows he could join other Rotary or civic clubs—but felt constrained.
Birmingham’s probably the best civic club town in America.
Both the Rotary Club of Birmingham and the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham are the largest in the world. Our Rotaract Club, which my young friend is a member, is also the largest Rotaract Club in the world.
Many people don’t know that the Civitan Club was founded here in Birmingham.
Our civic clubs are incredibly generous and make a difference both locally and internationally.
Our Birmingham Rotary Club has played a major role in seeking to eradicate Polio worldwide.
Some of our many projects included establishing an effective Birmingham preschool learning initiative; responding generously to the destruction of the 2011 Birmingham tornadoes; and funding the Rotary Trail.
But I’m approached most every week by young professionals looking for advice on how to get involved in making Birmingham better.
Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer.
So I ask these questions to our millennials…
Do you feel Birmingham provides meaningful opportunities for leadership roles for young professionals?
What opportunities should be provided?
What do you recommend to our established business community and to our many civic clubs?
You young folks are our future.
How can we best take advantage of your talents, energy, and vision?
Let’s turn Birmingham around. Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)
David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.