Rotary Club Reluctant to Help Mayor Help Teens

At his State of the City address  on Thursday, Mayor Greg Fischer spoke briefly about the Youth Opportunity Showcase, a summer jobs program for teenagers.

The program began in 2006, under Mayor Jerry Abramson’s leadership. It seeks to provide 1,000 of Louisville’s teenagers with jobs. In the original release, the goal of the program was to provide teens with “positive activities,” “job skills,” and to help “build resumes.” Oh, and also, to keep those rabble rousers off the street. Darned rowdy teenagers.

Mayor Fischer’s speech was given to the Rotary Club. With a room full of Presidents, CEO’s, and other important folk, the mayor said this:

“I am asking every company and every organization in this room to dedicate itself to hiring at least one teenager…and perhaps more…this summer. You can change a teen’s life.

And, if you can’t commit to hiring a teenager or have a place for them to work, would your company be willing to donate $1,000 or $2,000 to this very worthy program to put our young people to work in this very difficult time?”

Well, something close to that. What’s missing, is that he asked these Very Important Folk to raise their hands if they would donate money to this program. Cue awkward pause. “Go on, put your hands up!” he urged. The men and women of the audience glanced at one another. Several reluctantly raised their hands. Mayor Fischer continued to urge them. More reluctant hands came up. Embarrassed, a few more, until a couple dozen members of the service-oriented Rotary Club of Very Important Folk had been shamed in front of their peers into publicly volunteering their money to the Youth Opportunity Showcase.

Unfortunately, I missed the nightly broadcast. However, though half a dozen cameras captured that exchange, I’m fairly certain none of it made it to the five o-clock news. The Courier-Journal disappointed, providing us only a summary, the speech itself, and an amusing tag cloud of the most-oft used words in the mayor’s speech. (Psst, it would have been better if the tags were actually, you know, tags.)

It remains to be seen whether or not these Very Important Folk will actually donate money to the program or, even better, offer teenagers jobs in their companies and non-profits. It also remains to be seen if the folk resent being shamed in front of their peers, and all of the reporters that they so judiciously ignored. Who knows? After all, they did name Mayor Fischer an honorary member.