In many ways, I became an Economist at the age of fifteen. It was then that someone handed me a manual that went with being a company officer in Junior Achievement. At the time, that youth organization provided a place for teenagers to get together and run their own little businesses, by selling products or producing services. Inside the manual, which explained what each officer’s job was, was a “centerfold” of information about Economics. I read that section, and immediately became interested. Of course, I did not know enough to truly understand what was written. However, I did note the (classic) text book referenced, got it out of the library, and read it. Eventually, it was the book I used in my first college Economics class. Junior Achievement (or “J.A.”,) thus sent me off on my career.
I found myself thinking of J.A. recently when our city became focused on the arrival of a political party that will be hosting its convention here in the next week. Years ago, after attending Junior Achievement conferences, I decided that I wanted to put attending a national political convention on my “bucket list.” Never mind that I had not yet heard the phrase “bucket list;” I knew what I meant.
The highlights of participating in J.A. were found not just in running a business, but also in attending conferences throughout the year. There were local conferences, regional conferences, and a national conference, all involving students from faraway places gathering at colleges or conference centers usually reserved for adults. I remember my reaction of amazement in meeting someone from Ohio. It sounded like someplace so far away, I could not imagine anyone being from there.
During the day, there were speakers and workshops and for many, contests for an assortment of things. Among these were awards for being the best officer or senior member that year, and the election of “officers” who would either run activities for a local branch of J.A. and/or take a leadership role in planning the conference for next year. There were meals in large banquet halls, during which other “delegates” insisted that no one put their elbows on the table, and speakers from many branches of business, most encouraging the students to pursue a career in business management. Throughout all of this, there was an element of teenage mischief. Although everyone was basically behaving, we all enjoyed the brief taste of walking just up to the edge of being well behaved by saying and doing things that we might not do at home, as evidenced by the favorite phrase of these conferences, which came in response to the question of “are you a turtle?”
In the evenings, there were parties and dances, something that was rare in the life of the “egghead” that I was. Many of the “delegations” wore the red, white and blue hats often seen at the political conventions, and people often traded trinkets engraved with their home city on them. One especially popular item to trade was a round keychain marked “tuit.” The idea was that we could no longer say “I’ll do it when I get around to it” because now they had a round “tuit.” Although the conferences were not officially political, I eventually realized that there were many elements that had a political flavor to them. However, for me, they were a chance to have fun in ways that were not normally available to a girl who walked the straight and narrow and excelled in school. I hope that my daughter has a chance to be exposed to similar experiences someday.
And so, I want to welcome the delegates as they arrive in Cleveland. May I suggest that you be sure to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (be sure to see the note from John Lennon’s teacher about his struggles with Math,) buy a Cavaliers championship t-shirt (it may be years before there are others like it) and enjoy our many restaurants. A list of restaurants that are not booked for the convention can be found on a local blog. I will not be attending this convention, but I still plan on attending one, someday, when I get around to it.
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