UM president challenges Youth Leadership class

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Dr. Robert M. McChesney, president of the University of Montevallo, challenged the 2005 graduating class of Shelby Youth Leadership to become the leaders of tomorrow and to face the challenges that lie ahead in Alabama.

In the program for high school juniors in Shelby County public schools and the Hoover City School System, monthly class days were held to teach students more about their community, the value of civic engagement and the importance of building personal character.

Last Thursday, April 14, the 2005 graduating class of the program presented the projects they had developed to learn the lessons of leadership.

&uot;You are all young leaders,&uot; said McChesney. &uot;We need young leaders.&uot;

He also told the high school juniors, &uot;Most of your opportunities are head of you.&uot;

McChesney advised the students, &uot;You live in a state that needs good leaders. I hope you’ll choose to live here, make your mark here.

&uot;I honor and commend you – not because you have been selected for your class but because you have graduated.&uot;

He said the students were selected for their leadership skills. But McChesney spoke of leaders who have sought not to lift Alabama but to divide and used race for control.

&uot;This is 2005. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go,&uot; he said as he spoke of the racial components that he said are still a part of today’s debates.

McChesney referred to the state constitution of Alabama, which was written during the 19th century but is still in use today, in the 21st century. He called it &uot;the worst constitution on the face of the earth.&uot;

Also, according to McChesney, anytime changes are brought up, the issues of taxes or race also come up.

McChesney said there have been great strides in education. But he spoke of Alabama’s high rank for divorces. He spoke of single-family homes and invisible fathers.

The UM president recommended the students to read a book by Max DuPree called &uot;Leadership Is An Art.&uot;

He said leaders empower others to use their talents and are not intimidated by the skills of others. He said a good leader is a servant.

&uot;You are fortunate to live in Shelby County&uot; because of great subdivisions, a great school system, great roads and it is a great place to live.&uot;

But McChesney said the secret of being a good leader is building relationships.

&uot;You now know people by being in this program that you may never have known.&uot;

He said Shelby County has been blessed with good leaders. He said there was time when it was mostly poor and rural. However, he said, a &uot;large portion of our state doesn’t share our vision and hope.&uot;

He also said Shelby County is blessed with hope.

&uot;Think about the difference hope makes in a life. Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future. Faith is the courage to dance to that music today.