Month: September 2012

A look back at Constitution Week


Happy Sunday to each of you.

October is upon us with its seasonal promise of cooler temperatures, changing landscape and Halloween. It also means Fall Break, a couple of well-earned week days for you and your professors take a step away from the usual class schedule, take stock of the semester and perhaps catch up on projects and assignments.

We just competed Constitution Week at UCO, our part of a national time of emphasis on one of our country’s vital founding documents, the core of our national governmental system. At UCO, the American Democracy Project (ADP) commemorated the week by its continuing emphasis on voter registration. This year’s total are almost twice as much as last year. Voter registration is one of the responsibilities we have as citizens. Actually voting once registered is another. Thank you, ADP.

Applause for Professors Patti Loughlin and Janelle Grellner for their continuing valued leadership of ADP, our institutional commitment to civic engagement, one of the Central Six pathways to what we call “transformative learning” (TL) here at UCO. Our intention is to create a spectrum of learning opportunities for you while you are here, including your firm grasp of your major or discipline. We encourage you to discover the power of learning as one of your most useful and formidable assets when dealing with the challenge of change that will be part of our daily lives. Your ability to learn, re-learn and learn again will serve you well, especially when linked to imagination, creativity and innovation. We will continue to discuss these dimensions of your success toolbox.

Last Friday, again reflecting the themes of Constitution Week, UCO was honored to be the site selected by the federal chief judge, the Honorable Vickie Miles La Grange, and judges of the Western District of Oklahoma for its naturalization ceremony. Our Constitution Hall was filled beyond capacity, and overflow rooms as well, with the aspiring new US citizens and their families.

Over 125 new Americans from 30 countries stood to recite en masse the oath of allegiance. The court clerk read the names of each of the countries from which the new Americans had come. From Burma to Bangladesh, from Mexico, Argentina, China, India and more, each stood and smiled broadly, some waving small American flags. Each had studied diligently, passed the requisite exams, waited many months, often years, for this opportunity. It was a moving moment for all when two recently naturalized citizens rose to speak of their decision, their love of their native cultures and peoples , and their happiness to be Americans, a country that rose to nation hood and greatness on the abilities of those who found their way here. The USA is the global poster for the potential of immigration linked to democracy.

It was a unique and fitting testimony to the foundations of our system during a week designed to focus us on the mission, vision and values of the United States political system. It reminded many of what unites our citizens rather than what may divide them.

As I mentioned last week, President Barack Obama addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations last week during the General Debate days at the opening of the 67th annual UNGA session. His “State of the World” comments have been quoted in sound bites, but merit our reading or hearing in their full context. The President spoke to the world’s leaders and heads of state that day, and there were no empty seats. All wanted to hear for themselves what the leader of this dominant global country thought was important to the USA and therefore to the world. During this Constitution Week, it reminds us that the President, as head of state and head of government, is our highest official national government emissary in connecting with the rest of our inter-connected world. I have always found it enlightening and instructive to observe what a preponderant impact the USA has in global affairs.

Bravo to all who made the Asian Moon Festival an overflowing success in the NUC ballroom on Friday night. I think half of Edmond’s families with children were there. It was a spirited and festive occasion thanks to the diligent efforts of so many international students, the Office of International Studies, Student Affairs, the team at the NUC and more. The planning and persistence was apparent and it produced an evening to remember. Bravo!

I wish all of you unbridled success. I believe in you.

Don Betz

Bill Curry Video Presentation

Billy Curry presented several key points concerning personal decisions you make as an individual to further your leadership capacity and influence. Which point(s) resonated with you the most and why?

Farewell to a leader and welcome as the world comes to New York


Good Sunday to all of you,

We had just a hint of fall early this morning with fresh breezes and moderate temperatures. Summer refuses to take its leave, so a few more days that belong in July lie before us.

This week, UCO lost one of its most enduring, historic leaders. Dr. Bill Lillard passed away at age 87. President Lillard helped forge the institution we all call ours now. He led Central State from 1975 to 1992. He was a life-long educator and former Superintendent of Oklahoma City Schools. His legacy lives on in many forms at UCO. Among the most visible is the Lillard Building where much of the university administration is located. Equally significant is the impression he left on those who knew and worked with him to serve the best interests of the university and its students, faculty, staff and alumni. I thank the Vista for its prominent coverage of Dr. Lillard in its last edition.

This week the world’s countries will send their leaders to New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Over the next three weeks, each of the 192 member states of the UN will have the opportunity to address the world from the green marble rostrum of the General Assembly chamber. This is a time of accelerated diplomatic exchange and dialogue with so many global decision makers crossing each others’s paths in a single location. Much of the interaction will appropriately take place out of the public sphere, but be assured this is a time of sustained diplomatic conversations with friends and others. We will watch for issues of significance as leaders offer their version of the “State of the World” from their respective. The full spectrum of leadership styles will be on display.

Many of you are new to UCO, and I know you have numerous responsibilities and obligations here beginning with your course of study. But I wanted to remind you of the annual Asian Moon Festival to be held next week. This inviting event is created by our Asian students who produced a memorable occasion last year. It is open to all of us, and I encourage you to attend.

Today former President Bill Clinton was the guest on CNN’s program, Fareed Zakaria GPS. He effectively made the case for optimism and studied global engagement in this time of challenge and change. President Clinton has created a highly effective international non-governmental organization(NGO), the Clinton Global Initiative, which connects leaders and resources with issues and areas of need around the globe. His success appears to be grounded in his international recognition, but equally in the example he has set as a private citizen linking human needs to those who can assist. Billions of dollars have been raised and applied to a variety of challenges from Haiti to Africa, Asia and other regions that have directly assisted millions of people. He is among the most admired men across the globe. He has matched his experience, many talents, and exceptional communication skills with actions that have earned him the trust of many in and outside the USA regardless of political partisanship. He is using his celebrity status to make a palpable difference here and around the world.

The weeks of our fall semester are evaporating as we move into October. I always look forward to seeing you individually and as members of our leadership organizations. Please say hello when we meet on or off campus.

I believe in you, and the lasting impact you will have, each in your own unique manner and style, as you continue to learn how to learn, lead and serve.

My sincere best wishes,

Don Betz

The Art of Networking

As young students technology plays an important role in your friendships and network. What are strategies and practices that you can develop and maintain to build networks that rely not only on technological advances, but also through human interaction?

A week of challenge abroad and a welcome back to UCO

Good Sunday to all of you,

This past week we were relieved to have Jarrett back with us for a few hours each day. As you likely know, he is faring much better, and we are all looking to a complete recovery. His leadership and devotion to the UCO leadership programs is one of the reasons why they are highly regarded and effective. If you have not already done so, reach out and welcome him back to Leadership Central and UCO, quite literally his home away from home.

On Tuesday we are pleased to welcome David Woods to Lessons. David is a highly successful executive and entrepreneur who uses his many gifts and talents to promote and advance ethical leadership in the marketplace and in society. He is a past president of the statewide network, Leadership Oklahoma, and one of the prime forces steering Giant Partners to national relevance and prominence. Among other issues, David is donating his time and talent to address an essential leadership skill, networking. Our intent is to invite David to return and interact on other issues that can directly enhance your leadership skills. David is eager to meet each of you.

This week has been one of tragedy and trial for the US in the Middle East and beyond as demonstrations ignited by an on line video denigrating Islam turned violent. For the first time since 1979, a US Ambassador was killed. In Benghazi, Libya, veteran and highly regarded Ambassador Chris Stevens died in the US Consulate there. Demonstrations have spread to many other countries over three days. While there appears to be a calming at this time, the underlying issues facing this region which is experiencing major change continue without resolution.

After the initiation of the uprisings beginning in Tunisia about 18 months ago, long- standing autocratic governments have been displaced in some countries with fragile systems not tested or fully underway. This is new political and civic territory for the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya. The verdict in Syria, perhaps the most consequential struggle thus far in this transition, is still underway with mounting civilian casualties, multiple factions in the country contending for power and an international community unable to reach a consensus on common action.

We are in the early stages of an historic shift with a number of possible outcomes. We are watching a new political order being forged in the cauldron of change. The United States has both interests and influence in the area and among these people as do other countries, both nearby and far away.

What is enlightening for me are comments Ambassador Stevens made recently to a colleague about the future of Libya and it’s people. He was highly regarded by the national transitional council that resisted and eventually overthrew Muammar Gaddafi after 42 years of autocratic rule. Stevens understood the fragility of the first attempt to create a new society, constitution and a sense of nationhood. He pressed Washington to let the newly empowered people to take the lead in reclaiming control of their lives. He was in Benghazi to open the first “American Space” in Libya, a learning center that is owned, operated and staffed by “our Libyan partners” as he said. He believed such a partnership would inspire increasingly strong connection between Libyans and Americans. Amb. Stevens was highly regarded by the new Libyan leadership and the people. His legacy there and I the US State Department will not soon be forgotten.

So as you hear dozens of voices claiming expert knowledge of what is happening in the Middle East, recall the example of Amb Stevens who accepted the post after working in Libya during their struggle for freedom. He was effective because he was honest and he earned the trust of those on the ground during the months of conflict. It is said that he always saw the potential over the peril.

I wish you a week of opportunity and productivity. Each day you are writing your own unique story.

We believe in you.

Best wishes,

Don Betz

9/11 and Your Experience

With the anniversary of 9/11 this past week a significant number of memories and emotions return for Americans. How do you feel your generation will continue to remember this day? What thoughts do you experience when thinking of this day in history?