How Lakewood Kiwanis Chooses Its Leaders
Is it presumptuous to suggest that the United States government would do well to look at the way Lakewood Kiwanis chooses its president? Let’s look at the facts.
The basic governing body of the Club is the Board of Directors. It consists of six members elected from the Club plus the President, the President-elect, the Immediate Past President, the Secretary and the Treasurer.
The six general members are elected to staggered terms of three years (limit: two terms). The Secretary and the Treasurer are elected by the Board, subject to ratification by the membership.
The President-Elect is elected from and by the Board for a one-year term, during which time he/she is charged in the by-laws to, “Prepare for service as President for the following year.” At the end of the year, the President-Elect is presumably elected President for one year (though the by-laws leave open the possibility of someone else being chosen.)
The virtues of this system are evident, as translated to the national stage: The President is elected from out of the legislative body, and is elected by that body. Thus he/she must have good working relationships with the legislators, and in all probability will not be a strong partisan, but rather will be one who “works both sides of the aisle,” as the saying goes, mediating differences and striking deals which are acceptable to all--or at least most--of the parties. He/she would be more likely to respond to the needs and the wishes of the nation as a whole instead of carrying the flag for one party.
There are also benefits arising from the fact that the President is not directly elected by the voters. Candidates for the presidency would be politicians of proven experience, and they would be chosen by colleagues who are well-acquainted with their views as well as their personal qualities. Thus, we would avoid the quadrennial popularity contests in which aspirants for the top job compete to see who can raise the most money, produce the most persuasive sound bytes (regardless of any factual or logical basis) and cash in on the current anxieties, anger or resentments of the voters. And of course, getting money out of at least the presidential part of politics would be a blessing.
As you can see, there are at least two serious roadblocks in the way of adapting the Kiwanis system to national government. One is that the whole system of representation would have to be changed. What I have described is more like the parliamentary system (as found in Britain, for example), than the U.S. system of separate branches. Second, even if the Kiwanis system were adopted by the national government, we would still have the bitter partisan conflicts that are producing dysfunctional government. Such conflicts don’t exist in Kiwanis, so those who serve the Club as officers do so for the good of the organization, as everyone understands that good, rather than being driven by a specific viewpoint.
And that brings up another feature of Lakewood Kiwanis that has always impressed me. In contrast to our past U.S. presidents, who are generally thrown away after they leave office as if they were worn-out pairs of shoes, Lakewood Kiwanis ex-presidents continue to serve vigorously long after their term of office has expired. At the Kiwanis fund-raisers--the hot dog stands, the doughnut-making tables, etc.--you will generally see three or four or more ex-presidents taking a leading role and working much longer than most others. This is just another sign that they are in Kiwanis not because of any personal ambition or goal, but to serve Kiwanis and through Kiwanis, the community.