JAY COPP 0000-00-00 00:00:00
International Convention Razzle Dazzles Lions Start with stalwart statesman Colin Powell drawing hearty laughs for his sly jokes about easing his retirement blues by buying a red sports car and then, turning serious, gaining sustained applause for his vigorous call for more volunteer service. Continue with the earnest, emotional appeals of an activist priest from Australia to protect children from abuse, neglect and want. Add in the surf sounds of the Beach Boys, the pop rhythms of Jay and the Americans and the beguiling native songs of dozens of delegations of ethnic-clad Lions as they paraded down Nicollet Mall to the curiosity and cheers of Minneapolis residents. What do these elements add up to? The 92nd International Convention, of course. For five days in July nearly 11,000 Lions and guests from 123 nations mingled with old Lions friends and made new ones, learned strategies and skills at seminars, and enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the parade, flag ceremony and other traditional segments of an international convention. The five-day extravaganza was equal parts grand party, a reunion of comrades, a venue for continuing education, a slew of inspirational talks and a business affair where new leaders were elected. It also was pure spectacle. The pep rally at the first plenary session featured the rollicking energy of the University of Minnesota cheerleaders, the frivolity of foam fingers (“We’re No. 1”), pom-poms and In a performance particularly enjoyed by new president Eberhard Wirfs of Germany, a children’s folk dance troupe and children’s choir close out the convention with an ethnic song and dance. After being sworn in as international president, Wirfs receives his official gavel from outgoing president Brandel. T-shirts shot into the crowd, and a rousing entrance from 2008-09 International President Al Brandel through a paper hoop emblazoned with his Miracles Through Service logo (as were the T-shirts). The opening of the second plenary session simulated a beach party and the third and final session featured a Broadway Comes to Minneapolis motif, accentuated by a montage of Hollywood dance clips shown on the monster 70-foot screen and the playing of well-known Broadway show tunes. (Oklahoma Lions showed they could carry a tune—and loudly, too–when the famous song saluting their state played.) Flanked by the district governors from his state, Brandel again made a grand entrance with a black top hat and cane to the tune of Sinatra’s iconic New York, New York. New president Eberhard J. Wirfs of Germany joined in the fun as well. Before discoursing movingly on his hardscrabble upbringing in the World War II era and how he knew the “privilege of hunger,” he sat down at a piano on stage, and to Lions’ delight, skillfully played a melodious German folk song. Near the end of the final plenary session, an utter surprise to Wirfs, a children’s choir from Minneapolis reprised the folk song in angelic harmony and a children’s German dance troupe from Milwaukee pranced before Wirfs and his wife, Margit. The third plenary included not only the oath of office for Wirfs but also the election of new officers and international directors. (See masthead on page 2 for names of directors.) Dr. Wing-Kun Tam of Hong Kong, China, was elected as second vice president (meaning he will become president in two years) and Sid L. Scruggs III of North Carolina assumed the office of first vice president. The Rev. Chris Riley of Australia, a youth activist, received the prestigious Lions Humanitarian Award. Inspired by watching the movie Boys Town as a boy and later by working as a young Catholic priest at the famed haven for youth in Nebraska, he founded Youth Off The Streets for young people who are homeless, drug dependent and victims of abuse. The award includes a US$200,000 grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation for continuing humanitarian activities. Previous recipients include former U. S. President Jimmy Carter and Mother Teresa. Al Brandel grew up on Long Island, far from the surf and sand of California. But the Beach Boys have always been close to his heart and our international president in 2008-09 joined the band on stage for one song during the encore at their performance at the international convention. As Mike Love and mates harmonized about Bar-Bar-, Barbara Ann, Brandel, his brother and nieces stepped up to the microphone and with smiles as wide as the Pacific joined right in. Minneapolis is not a glitzy city, but Lions enjoyed its historic and cultural attractions, its outdoor restaurants along Nicollet Mall and especially its friendly ambience. “How do you like Minneapolis?” Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak confidently asked during his welcoming comments at the first plenary session. Lions roared in assent. Indeed, a half mile from the convention hall on a busy street, a woman stylishly dressed approached two out-of-town pedestrians and asked, “Are you guys Lions? Thanks for all you do.” For the average Lion at the convention, the plenary sessions especially captured the spirit of our association. “They remind me why I am a Lion. They revitalize me for the work we do at home,” said Susan Lydon, a new district governor from Nevada. Meeting and mingling with other Lions made the journey to Minneapolis memorable. “It’s kind of like going to a family reunion,” said Ron Long of Manassas, Virginia.
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