News: VALS 2014: The American Dream

12th Annual Values Aligned Leadership Summit Focuses on the American Dream

On April 24, 2014, the 12th annual Values-Aligned Leadership Summit convened in south Denver, gathering almost 750 business leaders and students from Colorado Christian University. The theme focused on the American Dream - what it means and whether we can look to its future confidently.

Dr. Gary Ewen began by defining the American Dream; "The American Dream is not about acquiring possessions as much as it is about liberty." He went on to tell of his experience with the American Dream. His grandfather, Lieutenant Ewen, fought for Britain in World War I, in the bloody battle of Gallipoli. After the war, the younger Ewen related, his grandfather vowed he would immigrate to America, to be free and subject to no man. He earned and appreciated the privilege of being an American citizen.

Yet, Dr. Ewen related, "the further we get away from earning the privilege of American citizenship, the cheaper it becomes."

Personal stories were the order of the day from noted speakers: what better way to unpack the American Dream than our own experience with it? Robert Hall, an author and speaker, spoke of how his father secured a loan during the Depression when a neighbor agreed to co-sign - thus saving the family ranch.

Hall lamented the current breakdown of relationships in America, asserting that an experience like his father's would not often happen today. The breakdown has fractured social, political, and religious systems, and it's costing us at work, too, he noted.

The plenary speaker, former Congressman Allen West, also told stories from his time in the Army and from famous battles. He related the tale of Joshua Chamberlain, a university professor, who ordered a bayonet charge during the battle of Gettysburg to help turn the momentum. "We need such people with courage, competence, commitment, conviction, and character," West asserted. "And we need more VALS conferences that focus on our values - especially one on Capitol Hill."

The day was peppered with talks and networking opportunities: each year, students and businesspersons have general admission seating, and they share tables over lunch and during discussion times for networking. Students are able to see what it takes to succeed beyond college, and businesspersons gain motivation and insight as they manage their businesses - along with potential employees.

Part of this focus on business was seen through a presentation on Employment Management Services, which is a unique job placement service through CCU. Ron Rex, head of EMS, spoke of how the employment problem is smaller than we're led to believe - but the will and ability of potential workers is an issue. By forming relationships with over 200 local companies, Rex has been able to train CCU students and place them in productive jobs - not internships, but jobs - within those companies. "We have a 96.5% success rate," he noted.

Joanna Bostwick of EMS added advice for millennials, who now make up over 1/3 of the workforce. She encouraged students to think like employers, and be willing to defer their "dream job" for a good job where they can work hard and earn their way up.

The day also honored persons who have exhibited Values-Aligned leadership: John Bandimere, Jr., was the Values-Aligned Executive; Jim Weber was awarded the Values-Aligned Alumnus of CCU; and Gillian Foster received the Values-Aligned Student award. They joined a legacy of students, alumni, and business leaders - both recipients of Values-Aligned awards and many without - who live with iron-clad values and stand for freedom wherever they are able.