Participation Is the First Step to Becoming a Leader1 Sep, 2008 By: Thomas Haire Response
"We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate."
— Thomas Jefferson
During a late-August visit to Thomas Jefferson's educational masterwork — the University of Virginia (that's the famous Rotunda behind me, at right), which he designed and founded in 1819 — the many ideas and concepts our third president is responsible for came to my mind.
From the writing of the Declaration of Independence to the completion of the Louisiana Purchase to founding a completely secular institution of higher learning at a time when such an idea was radical, Jefferson's many contributions to the foundation of American governance and society are clear. What becomes even clearer, upon deeper study of the man and his published thoughts, are the depths of Jefferson's belief in participation in a society and a republican democracy.
His quote above is not only directly applicable to the American system of government — which is, of course, a popular subject with the Obama-McCain election just around the corner — but also useful when considering each of our places in the direct response marketing universe. Simply substitute "direct response" in place of "America" in the quote, and you'll see what I mean.
It's interesting to look at this quote because, during my seven-and-a-half years in the DR world, one of the most stirring debates has always centered around leadership roles in moving the business forward. I'm not talking about leading your company — no, more importantly, I'm talking about taking part in the sort of industry-wide initiatives and events that help move the business forward as a whole.
Obviously, Response has always attempted to position itself as a leader in education, information and connection in the DR business. From the magazine to Response Expo to the Direct Response Marketing Alliance (DRMA) and other initiatives, Response's core belief is that our role is to participate — wholly and completely — in making the direct response marketing world a stronger and better place.
And, we're not the only ones. Many of you are involved directly with other leadership groups outside of Response's full menu. From the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) to the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) — and more — there are literally dozens of groups fighting to improve the world we work in.
When I read Jefferson's words above, the words could not ring more true in relation to the DR business today. Now, with recession looming, new technology and regulation bubbling, and questions abounding about the future of our business (see our annual State of the Industry report), your involvement and your voices have never been more crucial in shaping the future of the business. I urge you to be a part of "Jefferson's majority" when it comes to shaping the direct response business.
Thomas Haire, Editor-in-Chiefss