Thomas E. Lawrence

PRESIDENT GENERAL 2015-2016

In his own words: “Thank you for your confidence by electing me President General. Let me introduce you to my family. Our daughter, Bridgett Harsgaard, is a consultant living in New York City with our grandchildren, Lizzie and Gracie. Gracie is 7 and plays baseball-not T-ball or softball. She is a catcher and shortstop and a good hitter with her own Louisville Slugger bat. Lizzie is 12 and a ballerina. She has danced with the American School of Ballet and the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. She is going to study with the Paris Opera Ballet. Many friends and compatriots have worked hard to make this society one of the strongest lineage and patriotic organizations. Organizations that want to make a difference, to be great, must have dreams and set lofty goals. There has been much discussion about the Solid Light proposal for the main-floor education center, our need to move forward aggressively with outreach education, to finish construction on our building, and the need for new software and a new website. While raising money and renovating the Library and Headquarters building, we were all pretty much on the same page, but when we completed enough of the building to move in, it became clear there were differing opinions about what to do next. This is like when our Patriot ancestors were united to achieve independence but then became divided over the course to follow after we won the war. And like our founding fathers, we will come together, and here is how I think we can do it. To make the best decision possible I will appoint an SAR Implementation Committee to look at our options and make recommendations at the Spring Leadership Meeting. The committee should have the final Solid Light plan by then; they already have the University of Louisville business plan, a better plan for outreach education and updated IT plans. The committee will be chaired by PG Nathan White and will include principal stakeholders, including the SAR Foundation; the IT Committee; representatives from Education, Budget and Strategic Planning committees; the museum board; and our new Governance and Organization Committee. They will review our existing plans and suggest options for consideration. We have to make decisions about what type of exhibit space we will have, how to proceed with completing construction, how to develop and make our outreach education programs national in scope, and how to complete our IT systems. Another focus will be to bolster our SAR legacy. We all hope to leave a legacy to be remembered. We have legacies with our family, our jobs and our church, but another important legacy is our SAR legacy. How many lives will we touch? How many seeds of patriotism will we plant? It is through young people that we build our SAR legacy, and we do it with our youth programs. I am not minimizing the importance of our color guard or public service awards or any other programs, but if we want to preserve the vision of our founding fathers, we must reach our youth. When we go to a school and put on a program or sponsor a poster or oration contest, or when Tom Green from Texas puts on a flag program, we touch students’ lives and give them an opportunity to learn about Paul Revere’s ride, the Battle of Yorktown or a brave young wife named Molly Pitcher. Going to the trouble to help them leaves a lasting impression that the American Revolution is important enough for you to take the time to come out and talk about it. It is hard work to set up these programs, but it is incredibly rewarding, and we know that by doing this we make this country stronger and ensure that our descendants will continue to enjoy the freedoms Thomas
Jefferson and Thomas Paine wrote about so eloquently, and Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams spoke about so passionately. Our youth programs are strong and led by dedicated compatriots, but not all states fully participate. Committee members have always talked informally, but I think we would benefit from a structured exchange. I will form a Council of Youth Programs that will include the chairmen of the eight youth programs-the poster contest, middle school brochure contest, C.A.R. award, Eagle Scout award, essay, oration, JROTC and the American History Teacher award. Dr. Rudy Byrd will chair the council, and its members will help one another’s programs. I ask that they design a brochure featuring all eight programs that can be handed out in schools. This brochure can be put on our website so chapters and states can download it, add their contact information and print it themselves. As encouragement, any state society that submits at least four candidates for a youth program national contest will receive a streamer. For any state societies that submit an entry for all eight contests I will personally write a check for $250 to that society’s youth program budget. For states that submit candidates for all eight programs I will write another check for $250 if any of their candidates win. Don’t worry about the money; it is coining out of Mickey Jo’s shoe budget. I ask this council to post the winning essays and speeches on the website as well as information about current and past winners. The committee chairmen should record videos so chapters and states can access them on our website and see the benefits and learn how to set up a youth program. I would like to mention three other ideas before I close education, the way our committees function, and our basic governance and organizational structure. One of the first things the new regime does when it takes over the government is to change what the kids are taught in school. They now learn that ~he old government was bad and the new leaders are heroes. Textbooks are rewritten, teachers re-educated, and new pictures put up in the schoolhouses. If you teach history in a certain way long enough, school children begin to believe it, so our fight is over how the history of the American Revolution is taught. Not only do we need to make sure it is adequately covered, but we need to see it is accurately portrayed. I am asking the Education Committee to add a subcommittee to map out a strategy to exert influence on how textbooks and web-based learning programs are written and selected. Tom Jackson from Texas is to chair this subcommittee. He is an elected school board member from one of the largest suburban school districts in the country, with more than 112,000 students. Anyone interested in this project should contact Education Committee Chairman Larry Stevens or Tom Jackson. Next, it clearly impossible to get all of our committee work done on a Friday at Leadership Meetings. Every new PG tries to improve efficiency by dissolving some committees and creating new ones, but I think we need to change the corporate culture. To help the committees, I am appointing Mike Elston of Virginia as a committee coordinator. He will work.with the committee chairmen to set and meet goals, submit budgets, assist them in holding meetings with teleconferences and gotomeeting.com and introduce them to working with Sharefile for document access. He will make sure committee concerns needing immediate attention are brought to the Excom and PG. To allow our members to attend all the necessary committee meetings and allow sufficient time for the trustee meetings, we will start on Thursday with a social activity on Thursday night. Lastly, I want to look at our governance and organizational structure. As you know, we have a Congressional Charter, which is prestigious but limiting. We have the SAR Foundation, which is chartered in Kentucky, and we have the right to use the CAAH name, so we have laws and rules we must follow. Questions have come up about our corporate structures in regard to liability, accepting donations from charitable entities, whether we have the exclusive right to use all of the potential operating names we need, and whether our system of governance still makes sense. I am appointing three of our best lawyers-John Dodd, Davis Wright and PG David Appleby-to seek answers and report to us by the Spring Leadership Meeting with suggestions or proposed changes. I often find myself reading the obituaries. I love to see where people were born and what they did. I look for their military service. I notice their work history, sometimes being impressed if they were a doctor, a partner in a big law firm or the president of a corporation. I increasingly search for what they did to help their community. When you read an obituary, you see the year a person was born, a dash, and then the year that person died. The
dash represents the individual’s life. My wife, Mickey Jo, told me about a poem titled “Dash Between the Years,” from which I quote:

“For it matters not how much we own..,the cars … the house. .. the cash What matters is how we live and love and’ how we spend our dash”

How do you want to spend the rest of your dash? The fact that you are an SAR member indicates you love this country, you care about its future, and you respect the ideals of our founding fathers and mothers. If we want this country to continue to look like Washington and Adams and Jefferson envisioned it, then we must ensure that our young people understand their vision and love our country as we do. The best way for us to do this is through our youth programs. You will agree that instilling in our young people the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence and a love of the freedoms in our Constitution is worth some of your dash. I close with a final thought about what makes an organization great. It is not how many members you have, although people join organizations that do worthwhile things. It is not how much money you have, although people tend to vote with their pocketbook and give when they think their money will be used for beneficial purposes. Organizations are great when they help people or influence positive and fundamental change. Our chance for the SAR to be great is to inspire this great country to continue to follow the patriotic vision of our founding fathers. Those of us who have contributed money and valuable time to preserve the principles of the American Revolution recognize our country’s future is dependent on those principles remaining the cornerstone of our government and national vision. We must dream the same dream that George Washington, John Adams and our Patriot ancestors dreamed, and work to make their sacrifices count and ensure that today’s youth understand those dreams. It is a humbling honor to be elected President General, and Mickey Jo and I look forward to this year and hope to see many of you in your home states soon. God bless you.”