Wednesday, July 21, 2004
8:47:00 PM EDT
Dear USCF Member,
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Elizabeth Shaughnessy and Randy Bauer as our newly elected Executive Board members. Chess continues to be a great sport, keeps you mentally fit, is a healthful lifelong recreation, and is of benefit to people as well as society. Getting more people involved in playing chess will be good for our organization and our culture. I wish our new Executive Board members all the best on their upcoming challenge this next year as they serve on our behalf.
We should not forget the Executive Board is responsible for sustaining the mission, ensuring the organization has the resources necessary to fulfill the mission, and for providing oversight as well as independent verification to ensure fiduciary and legal requirements are met. Testing everything against the mission needs to become the standard check of organizational direction. This mentality is best achieved when every board meeting has some mission-relevant conversation. The central reason for meeting at all is the mission. For the USCF, our testing questions must become: 1) How will this action promote the study and knowledge of chess? 2) How will this action help those who seek to become masters? 3) How will this action encourage the formation of chess groups? Ultimately, if the action does not grow chess by facilitating creating more players or better players then it is not central to the mission.
Board members must represent the membership and are individually and collectively responsible to the members for the sound and proper performance of their duties. As agents of the membership, board members must be committed to that trust and bound by fidelity to those in whose name the mission is created. In this campaign, I’ve had a chance to interact with some truly committed people who feel that playing chess is fun and can have an impact in people’s lives. Our grass roots USCF members are truly the gems of the sport. Whether USCF members are just paying dues, donating money or time, in my view the future now could not be in better hands. Once again, hats off to our members! It is their corporation and we have not yet begun to tap our most valuable resource, our membership. There should be few activities as important as finding out what the membership thinks and wants for outcomes, products, and services. To regain your trust, we need to show you, our members, that despite our many challenges, our leadership will strive for more accountability, more transparency, some moral courage, and better customer service.
Some still feel the USCF is a totally unique organization that is not subject to common or best practice that other organizations have used successfully. They refer to this uniqueness as "chess management." However, the USCF is in reality a nonprofit business. The USCF continues to be in dire need of a businesslike board. Thus, when voting for board members it will be important to consider qualifications such as senior management experience, skills, individual backgrounds, opinions, and style. Only persons who have the appropriate professional experience, expertise, future vision, and membership orientation should be selected for the board. We hope that barriers to membership participation in Executive Board elections will continue to be reduced rather than increased. During the spring of 2005 the USCF will hold elections to fill four vacancies on its Executive Board making it the first such board completely elected by the membership. If you are a new face who has not run before and you feel you can contribute to the future leadership of the USCF you might consider volunteering for office in 2005. Remember, you can make a difference!
As many of you are aware I have been a long time advocate in favor of member's rights and good governance as well as against insider abuses, secrecy, and negligence. That won't change. As an organization, we continue to be almost blind to the current conflicts of interest, self dealing, patronage, double standards, internal politics, and abuses of power that prevent us from moving forward. I hope things like voting rights or due process for members as well as accountability to the membership will no longer be too esoteric for our leadership team.
To provide appropriate leadership it is important to be fair and impartial, to adhere to high ethical standards, and to act in accordance with the law. Doing what is right is not always easy. Sometimes you are faced with a choice between doing what is politically safe or doing what is right. Fiduciary duty will need to be placed before fiscal expediency. Sometimes you have to stand up to seemingly unbeatable odds, speak the truth to the most powerful interests, to do what is right. This type of courage will be necessary to deal with our internal issues as well as our relationship with FIDE.
Finally, I very much want to thank all those who considered that my volunteering could be beneficial to the corporation -- thank you for the support, for the assistance, and thank you for your interest in a better USCF.
Note, the successful person’s definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”