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Saturday, August 22, 2020

To attend a virtual district convention, or not to attend? That is the question

August brings District Conventions to life. Around the world of Optimist International, Optimist Clubs, and their representative members gather for a celebration of the old and new as they recognize those who have served and those who will step into leadership positions. It is also a time for motivation and innovation as members make plans to end the administrative year strong. 

This year brings special challenges to the mix. COVID-19 is preventing most districts from gathering in person so they have moved to virtual settings via ZOOM and similar platforms. 

optimist international zoom
This has allowed interaction between the Optimist International leaders, districts, and clubs in a way that has never before been possible. President Adrian Elcock can connect with the Arizona District from his home in Barbados. President-designate Mark Weinsoff can connect with the Midwestern Ontario District from his home in California. Certified International Trainers (CIT) and others who have important information to share can connect with a district other than their own without leaving their home office. Optimist Club members can attend a virtual convention across the country and share the optimism of newfound friends. 

The PNW District's virtual convention is scheduled for September 19, 2020. Unlike most districts that have held their conventions at no cost or a minimal $10 registration fee, the PNW District administration is asking for $35 to attend. I am disappointed that it feels the need to do so and while I realize we are still 27 days away, we have not seen an agenda, and I question what it will offer that warrants that amount. 

Optimist Clubs, like other community service organizations, charge individuals to volunteer. For those of us who have joined, we get it. The investment helps our organization thrive and provides the unity that we need to bring about global initiatives. However, to continually come to the well for more and more money is disconcerting.

In case you didn't realize, the PNW District Policies grants voting rights to individuals who register and pay to attend the District Convention. This is in direct conflict with the District Policies suggested by Optimist International and at the 2019 District Convention, those assembled voted to change this policy. It was then overturned by less than 25 people at the first-quarter conference in October 2019. 

This policy conflicts because individuals belong to Optimist Clubs; Optimist Clubs belong to Optimist International and are assigned to Districts for administrative purposes. It is an Optimist Club that is served by the District and therefore it is the Optimist Club that should vote for any business, including the election of officers, that comes before the District as it does at the District Convention.

Optimist Club presidents serve as members of the Board of Directors for the District so that they have a voice in administrative matters. They include their club members in their voting decisions. If the president and their Optimist Club's voice is taken away or diminished because their members had something to do that day other than attending a district meeting or convention, what is their motivation to participate? 

This is a rhetorical debate that I am having with myself as I write this article. I believe it is unlikely that any policy decisions will be made or should be made at the virtual convention for the PNW District. To do so would be unwieldy and uninspiring. 
Eddie Solarzano PNW Optimist Clubs
Eddie Solarzano, 
PNW District Governor 2020-21

We should instead embrace the opportunities that the pandemic has given us to experience optimism from different voices and lands. We should encourage projects to take on a new life in a world that is different than it was last year at this time. We should rally every Optimist Club to finish strong and to be an Honor Club. 

Above all, we should cheer for optimism.  We've chosen to belong to an Optimist Club for a reason and something tells me it has very little to do with fretting over administrative rules. 

Let's take the remaining days of this administrative year to plan how we will uplift our attitudes within our clubs and throughout the world. On October 1, the PNW District will have a new voice with a Spanish accent at the helm. Eddie Solarzano hopes to bring not only fellowship but also friendship, back to the district. We predict we will all be proud and enjoy choosing optimism once again. 

We wish you well and hope to see you soon. 

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