By Leone, Lisa
Corrections Today , Vol. 68, No. 6
Former Sen. Robert Dole began his speech with jokes and good humor, entertaining the Monday morning Opening Session attendees with stories--from losing the 1996 presidential election to acting in a Pepsi commercial featuring Britney Spears. His enthusiasm encouraged the audience to approach issues during the week with an optimistic attitude. "I think the best days are ahead," he said.
Having served as a county attorney in the past, Dole said he knows some of the challenges the attendees face on a daily basis. "I learned from the past, but I lived for the future." Dole shared anecdotes from his life and the lives of former presidents in order to demonstrate the value of their work and their optimism. "Age may or may not bestow wisdom but if you live long enough and you are open to new people and experiences then you may just gain the next best thing to wisdom, which is respect."
According to Dole, the definition of leadership is recognizing that every decision has a consequence and being able to say, "The responsibility is mine alone." He recognized leadership potential in each member of the audience. "The government in America is first and always self-government, and sooner or later we are all called upon to be leaders in one way or another."
Despite voicing concerns about current events in the Middle East, Dole noted that he is optimistic about America. He sited the media's coverage of primarily negative events as a reason for a lack of confidence in the United States. "There is a lot of dissatisfaction in America," he said, adding, "I think a lot of it stems from the disease of too much spin, too many talking heads telling us what we ought to think and not enough courage."
Dole's main message was that life is serious enough, so a sense of humor sometimes helps. He acknowledged the dedication of the attendees and ACA members. "This room is filled with good people who are out there making a difference." He concluded by saying, "Thanks for all you do and God bless America."
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Outgoing ACA president, Gwendolyn C. Chunn also addressed the audience at the Opening Session. "It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life," Chunn said of her presidential term. She stressed that when one feels the passion for an issue, he or she can tinker with it and plant seeds (raise awareness). Chunn said she has done a little bit of both. "What I learned out of this tinkering is that we are a talented organization full of can-do people. …