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EXPOSING CHILDREN TO POSSIBILITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Thank you George. Let me explain my philosophy about speaking in public. Thirty years ago, I adopted a rule that I would only speak at a college while there was a possibility that one of my children would apply, or in business situations where I could find no acceptable excuse to escape. For three decades, this rule has been hard and fast.
That is, until last March ... when George Stein came up to me at a New York Knicks -- Indiana Pacer basketball game and asked me to address this Tri-State Camping Conference. I heard myself saying "yes" immediately. This sudden acceptance actually surprised me. But then I realized it was due to the fact that George's invitation triggered a rush of emotion about how much I loved camp and I made an almost Pavlovian association between this speech and my treasured memories of camp.
I attended a camp in Vermont called Keewaydin and I loved every moment of it ... every year of being there ... every baseball game and canoe trip and wilderness experience and being a staffman and driving a truck and just being a team player. I loved the six years as a camper and three years as a counselor between 1950 and 1964. As much as I loved it, my father must have loved it more. He went to Princeton as an undergraduate and Harvard Law but never went to a reunion. However, he never missed a Keewaydin reunion.
And, over the next few years, when I joined NBC as a page followed by CBS and finally ABC as a fact totem plus, I hoped that when I got fired (something very common in athletic coaching and television), it would be in May so I could go back to camp. Fortunately I only got fired once, but unfortunately it happened in the Fall. So I told George, "yes." If I couldn't go back to camp, at least I could get this close.
And so it is that I abandoned my strict rules regarding public speaking to be here today.
As I said, I loved camp. But, I've long been fascinated by why this is so. After all, camp takes children and separates them from their families, from their televisions, telephones, VCR's, Playstations and computers for weeks at a time to take them to what? The woods, to live ten to a cabin without air conditioning or their Mom or Dad's cooking/bedmaking/driving and one-day laundry service ... unable to ABC One Saturday Morning, or sleep in 'til noon or visit a mall. And, yes, they love it! When it's over, they don't want to leave. And, when they grow up, they want to go back.
I've spent nearly as much time trying to understand the strange appeal of summer camp as I have the appeal of a talking mouse who favors red shorts. Quite frankly, I'm still stumped about the mouse. But, I think I've figured out the amazing allure of summer camp to kids …