Shane Hedges, managing director at Millennium, LLC, advises clients on strategic growth and operation endeavors in a variety of sectors. In addition to the effort he puts into his work, Shane Hedges also puts effort into supporting several local charities and organizations, including serving on the Board of Directors of the Wendt Center for Healing and Loss.
The Wendt Center is a preeminent organization helping people to heal from grief, loss and trauma. Founded by Reverend William Wendt, the Center ensures that no one ever has to grieve alone. It’s services include grief counseling, camps for children who have suffered loss or trauma, military veterans counseling, counseling victims of abuse and an award winning morgue program to counsel families who have had to identify a loved one.
Mr. Hedges has been actively involved in helping the Center develop a long term strategic plan to grow it’s impact and influence on these vitally important issues. With a solid foundation and nearly 40 years of serving the people of the nation’s capital, the Center aims to broaden it’s services in the years to come.
Mr. Hedges is a seasoned an experienced strategist, helping to write winning campaign plans, developing corporate growth strategies and launching new products and services to meet the needs of consumers.
The role of father’s in lives of America’s children has become so marginalized and so undervalued that it has created an epidemic of poverty that will take several generations to undo once we have the political will to finally admit that our ‘war on poverty‘ diagnosed the wrong problems and prescribed the wrong remedies.
The bipartisan 1996 welfare reform law that was heralded as the end of “big government” and a signature achievement of bipartisan cooperation in Washington was supposed to restrain the welfare state. It has not. While the immediate benefits put many welfare recipients back to work and off the dole and, in fact, were a huge success, Washington has lacked the political will to expand the efforts deeper into the welfare state where lasting change could have been achieved. And the consequence is that 80 other welfare programs remain largely intact and growing, now costing American taxpayers some $700B annually for means-tested programs.
The goal of welfare ought to be increase self-sufficiency. Ours has increased dependency. Since President Johnson crusaded in the mid 1960s, Federal spending on means-tested welfare programs has topped $20,000,000,000,000. That is a staggering sum, especially given that as stated by the US Census Bureau, 46 million Americans live in poverty. And the failure is real. When the war of poverty began, 14.7% Americans were living in poverty; $20 trillion later it has RISEN to 15%.
Why? Because we have systemically failed to address the root behavioral problems that lead to dependency in the first place. That is namely the literal obliteration of the American family. In fact, our programs have exacerbated them. Nearly 70% of people living in poverty are households headed by unwed parents. 70%! Nearly 40% of all American children today are born out of wedlock. 40%. That is 1.7 million children born annually to single mothers.
These are heartbreakingly staggering statistics. And we know marriage helps, as children in married households are 82% less likely to live in poverty. A survey by Princeton and Columbia shows that 56% of unmarried mothers will be poor, but just 17% would be poor if they married the father of their children. Men must be fathers and husbands. They must step up.
Additionally, the astonishingly high rate of unemployment means fewer jobs able for uneducated workers, increasing their dependency on welfare programs.
The war of poverty failed to address either of these issues – marriage and employment. In fact, many of these programs encourage recipients to be jobless and unwed – spirally a cycle of dependency.
The remedies are unequivocal. We must encourage strong marriages. We must restore the role of fathers in the lives of children. And we must focus the power of the government on creating an entrepreneurial climate where job creation is the primary focus and where work requirements are the key element of any welfare program.
We must act. Federal and state means-tested welfare spending is on pace to top $1.56 trillion in 2022. Reformers have their work cut out, but I am convinced that conservative leaders who care about the future of America must declare war on the war on poverty with a positive, proactive agenda that restores work requirements, cuts bureaucracy and regulations that ignites job growth and that aggressively communicates and protects that marriage.
Our nation’s future depends on us getting it right this time.
It is simply remarkable that a candidate for president was unable to anticipate the elements of his past that would be an issue for his campaign. To be caught so flatfooted with changing explanations, inability to understand the outrage and to falsely accuse others for making this an issue shows an inept handling of a perfectly predictable episode. If you couldn’t plan for this, you can’t plan for an entire nation.
Trustees, Teachers, Community Members and most of all graduates – thank you for the invitation to share in the joy of your commencement here tonight.
It is always an honor to be here. This is a place where I have returned from time to time over the years to reflect on the values this institution and this community instilled in me.
It was nearly a quarter century ago that I sat on this very stage – full of optimism and certainty that this place had given me the tools I needed to achieve any goal I set. I hope and trust that these are the same emotions you are experiencing.
Commencements are milestones – a time to reflect, but a time as well to renew our hopes and dreams – to stop and think about who we are and what we want from our lives.
As I was considering what I thought you should know, I was reminded that in the wake of World War II General Marshall outlined his plan for Europe’s recovery in just 1,442 words and in less than 12 minutes. Surely, if the General could outline a plan to save a continent in so little time, I can share my thoughts for your lives in less.
Though, Mrs. Sally Kreis, my favorite teacher who is here with us tonight, would tell you that I’ve never said anything in my life in less than 1,442 words – so I have my work cut out.
Whatever path you choose for your life, you possess an advantage over most people on our planet – you come from Montana.
This is a remarkable place – a place of dramatic landscapes, hardworking people and lasting values.
Life here is different from other places. Through the fertile valleys, across the magnificent vistas and under a breathtakingly Big Sky is a sense of place removed from the out-of-touch and overly-complicated world around.
History and tradition seem to be forever whispering here. This gives Montanans clearer thoughts, calmer spirits and more nourished souls. The people are better here; humbler and more centered.
I learned this most vividly when I left for the first time.
There is a single day in my life – a single four hour period on my first day alone outside of Montana – where I learned four important lessons that you need to take with you as you begin your journey with greater independence and more freedom than you have known within these walls.
I was 16 and had just flown to Washington, DC to move into a dorm on Capitol Hill to serve as a page in the United States Senate.
Washington, as you may know, is built on a swamp. And the consequence is that August is like a 31-day steam room from which there is no relief. I did not know this until I stepped out of the airport carrying three enormous suitcases and a sense of anticipation matched only by nervous energy.
A member of the senator’s staff was supposed to transport me from the airport to the capitol. I carried all my belongings to the median of the pickup lanes and began to wait in the hot, sticky sun for my ride.
I did not know what my car and driver looked like. There were no such things as cell phones in those days (unless you were on Miami Vice) and Al Gore hadn’t yet invented the internet.
So I did the colossally stupid thing and just hopelessly waited…and waited….and waited. Two hours later – dripping with sweat, hot as can be no idea what to do next, I carried all my belongs back across 3 lanes of traffic to consider my options and to find a pay phone.
I decided to do what every lost boy does in a time of crisis. I called my mom.
My mom reassured me that there was an answer and told me to call the page dorm directly.
So I did. The director of the page dorm answered and I told her that I had landed, no one was there to get me and I had no idea how to get to the dorm. With the impatience of someone who lived in the city all her life, she replied tartly, “just catch a cab.”
“How do I do that?” I asked.
A long pause ensued followed by, “you mean you don’t know how to take a taxi?”
“No,” I said sheepishly, “we don’t have taxis where I’m from.”
Through the muffled giggles she began to speak to me as if she were my kindergarten teacher. “Do you see a…man with a hat…and a stack of papers…standing by yellow cars…with signs on them…that say taxi?”
“Yes, I do!”
“Tell him…you want to go…to 400 New Jersey Avenue…and he will help you.”
I did this and twenty minutes later I pulled up in front of the dorm and began a chapter that would forever change the trajectory of my life.
That day, I learned four important lessons I would like to share with you.
First, never, ever be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.
The easiest thing to do in life is to settle for what we know. It gives us comfort and security.
Yet it is when we step beyond the bounds of our securities that we see the world in new ways – that we learn more about ourselves and our passions.
Where we see what inspires us.
I could have just as easily walked back into that airport that August day and been on a return trip home, but I wanted to know what I was capable of.
When I asked Cooper Huckaba what the biggest mistake she has made in her life, she replied with a statement that will no doubt give her parents great pride. She said, “When I didn’t try. It got me nowhere.”
Take it from Cooper – try new things. Take reasonable risks. Spread your wings and you will be amazed at how far you can fly.
Second, rely on others when you need a helping hand, but never forget that the best helping hand is your own.
I needed to place a call that August day to help me find my way, and by asking what I didn’t know I learned more about what I did. This will be true in your own life. Seek the counsel of others, rely on your friends when necessary – but know that there is no problem you will face in your life that can’t be solved when you follow your own heart. Brandon Hehn this is especially true for you.
It is in times of tragedy that we often learn the most about ourselves. Weeks before a recent tragedy in his life when I asked Brandon who his hero was, he wrote simply: my dad. His answer, it seems, was fate’s way of helping him prepare to find his own courage for renewal.
In the face of losing his dad, Brandon will need to find himself — in his own time and in his own way. But this community provides a safe place for him to not only be helped by others, but to learn also how to help himself.
Third, always be proud that you are from Montana.
It may have been slightly embarrassing not to know how to catch a taxi – but growing up in Montana gave me knowledge far more valuable: how to treat people with kindness and compassion; to live with purpose and values; to work hard and value others who work hard too.
Montana’s first woman governor, Judy Martz, used to say that there was nothing more heartbreaking than watching Montana’s young people board the first plane, train or automobile out of Montana to get a good education and a good job. That is heartbreaking.
But the world seeks out Montanans. Everywhere I travel I find them because employers appreciate and need their work ethic, honesty, good natures and their stick-to-it-ive-ness.
If you choose to leave Montana to explore the world, be proud to be from here and use it as the advantage that it is.
Most importantly, wherever you go, do something that inspires you. Chance Lamb is wise beyond his years. When I asked him his biggest hope for his life he told me “to be successful in a job I like instead of just making money.” We would all be well served to heed Chance’s words.
And the fourth thing I learned that August day was that mom is always just a phone call away.
No matter where you go or what you do, the people here in this room – first and foremost your moms – will always be by your side. Time and time again whether in triumph or heartbreak your family will be there to protect you.
Some calls home for help will be harder to make than others. But make them.
In fact, I think Aubrey Simon needs to get the ball rolling on this one. When I asked her what one thing she wanted her parents to know she replied, “that I’m secretly in the CIA, on the road to success – so get ready.”
I think you may have some things to share with mom over cake when we’re done here.
Mrs. Simon, as long as she’s not waterboarding anyone, Aubrey’s got the right the spirit.
If you don’t believe me that moms know best, just listen to my 5 year old Jack. Last weekend when I was negotiating with him – as I often must do at this age – I told him in a moment of exasperation, “Jack, I’m your dad. I make the rules.” He looked straight into my eyes, began to laugh and said, “Dad. Don’t be silly. Mommy makes the rules.”
These four truths – stepping beyond the familiar, seeking helping hands while relying on yourselves, being proud Montanans and never being afraid to call mom – have made all the difference in my life. I know they can for you.
The challenge of every young person – every human for that matter – is to stretch ourselves just beyond what we think we can handle so that we are rising to every occasion while ensuring that we never go beyond our breaking point.
Make good choices and great decisions in the coming years by never forgetting the fragility of life, the fleeting nature of success or the hurt of failure.
The good news for all of you is that you have in this community a safe place for you to practice and explore your independence. It is here where you can see yourselves as you are so that you might imagine who you want to become.
The one thing that I hope above all else can be said of you is that your lives will be extraordinary.
These people here tonight believe in you. Find yourselves. Explore your passions. Pursue your dreams. Inspire the people around you. Hope with everything you have. This will make your lives extraordinary.
Thank you for the privilege of being here with you tonight. Good luck in all your future endeavors.
There are a variety of good tools out there to assess individual strengths. One of the most utilized in recent years is the Strengths Finder by Gallup. It is worthwhile to review results from time to time and create action plans for strengthening each of these characteristics. Today, I will provide a brief overview of my results but over a number of days will show how to create an achievable action plan for each of these strengths.
Competition – People who are especially talented in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.
Self-Assurance – People who are especially talented in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.
Activator – People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.
Command – People who are especially talented in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.
Arranger – People who are especially talented in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.
Look for each of these to be explored in the coming days.
Note: This essay appeared in The Whitehall Ledger September 15, 2010.
This year marks the first time in three decades that Cardwell School opened without Sally Kreis in the classroom. As is customary with Sally, she left her classroom humbly without fanfare or accolades; but on the occasion of her retirement from teaching I want to tell you about the Sally Kreis that has helped shape my life.
Sally taught me in the 5th and 6th grade, but decades later rarely a week goes by that I don’t respond to something with, “Sally Kreis taught me that.” When people complement me after a speech, I can say, “Sally Kreis gave me the confidence to do that.” When someone remarks on the style of my penmanship my answer without fail is, “Sally Kreis made me write until I got it right.” When someone acknowledges my optimism, I say “it is because my life is filled with people like Sally Kreis.”
Sally is a teacher who goes beyond the basics and teaches by example how to live. Her gentle, yet firm, approach is to allow students to test the boundaries of their own independence and potential, while ensuring we never go too far beyond our abilities.
But when we do and when the cruelty of false invincibility robs us of the innocence of youth, Sally never judges. Sally builds. She helps us learn from the experience to mold and shape the future. Years after I left her classroom and was establishing my career, a tragic car accident of my own making took from me the life of a great friend and everything I had ever worked to achieve. In the darkest days of my life, Sally, in her quiet and gentle way, wrote me letter and sent me a copy of the poem If by Rudyard Kipling that years earlier she had encouraged me to recite from memory before the entire school. Back then, Sally used the exercise and the poignant words of one of the greatest of the classics poems to instill confidence in me. To paraphrase, the poem says “If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise….you will be a Man my son.”
As a boy, reciting those words changed my life. As a man, reading those words saved it. Sally always knows just what to say and do.
When the rawness faded and the political pile-on of the accident began, Sally refused to do the easy thing and walk away. She is loyal to the core of her being. Nearly a decade after that tragedy, Sally still marks every August 15th with a kind note of encouragement that reminds me that life can be, will be and is still meaningful in the wake of failure, loss and adversity. And she has been there at every joyful occasion in my life since then – completing a marathon, getting married, earning my MBA, becoming a company president and experiencing the birth of my children – with her presence or with a note as if to subtly nudge, “I told you so.” Every time I look into the eyes of my own children, I know once again that Sally is always right.
Our lives are really just fabric woven from the people and experiences that shape us. My fabric is stronger because of Sally Kreis. Sally may not be imparting knowledge in front of a chalkboard this year, but the lessons she has taught us, the confidence and values she has instilled in us and the example she has set for two generations of young people will help all of us privileged enough to have been in her classroom to in turn do our part to impact the lives of others for generations to come. That is a legacy worth acknowledging. Thank you, Sally.
Shane Hedges is the third generation of his family to have attended Cardwell School and now resides in Washington, DC with his wife and two children and is the president of the nation’s leading company for leadership education for high-achieving young people.