It was recently brought to the attention of the FSAE staff that we would be expecting a special visitor, Mr. H. All that we knew about Mr. H. was that he is the first Japanese AMC Executive Director, spoke English well, and would be visiting so he could learn more about the operations of American associations.
Mr. H. arrived at the FSAE office with his host and the infamous Bob Harris, CAE. They both bowed when I greeted them at the door and naturally I reached to do the American handshake. Little did I know that the man so small in stature was about to actually remind me of a big lesson.
Mr. H. joined the five FSAE staff in the conference room and admitted that he was nervous being surrounded by 5 women (I think he left the beautiful out). Mr. H. proceeded to give his reasons for visiting and that ultimately, his personal mission was to help rebuild associations in Japan using a healthy and proper model. Then, Mr. H. began to explain the history of Japanese associations and confessed their corruption. Mr. H. told us that in Japan there are 37 associations and over the past 50 years, each of them have been organized by the Japanese government. The government would present itself to the leading business of an industry, force it to organize an association and agree to subsidize the association to achieve its motives. You can only imagine what the official’s power looks like in the board room and how the mission of the association is not for the purpose of the people’s common interest, but to assist the government with its ulterior motives.
Ponder on it for a moment. I did and then I became overwhelmed by the power of associations in American. Everyday I am surrounded by associations that were built 10, 50, 100 years ago who’s foundations were built for a good purpose. Mr. H.’s story about the purpose of Japan’s associations reminded me of how blessed we really are to be free. It’s so easy to get tied up in the day-to-day of association work, boards, trends, events, etc., but readers, please don’t forget how lucky we are to be in a country that allows associations to operate and be organized freely. I know this isn’t a mind blowing concept or original idea, but on the days that are tough, think about what it might be like in the board room of a Japanese association.
Mr. H. is well on his way to helping the Japanese restructure the culture of associations and hopefully he left our small conference room with just as big of a revelation as I did. Thank you, Mr. H.