How long is a long time?

Jan 21, 2011

by: Chip McComb
Emerging Media Specialist

What seems more ageless than a big multi-national corporation? Surprisingly, nearly everything lasts longer than a company these days. Just take a look at the Fortune 500 list. Only 14 percent of companies that were on the list in 2009 were also on the list in 1959. Here’s the data if you’d like to compare for yourself. Digging deeper you can see that the “average life expectancy of a multinational corporation, Fortune 500 or its equivalent, is between 40 and 50 years.”

Why is this important? On January 21, Kiwanis turns 96 years old. In a culture where we throw around words like “millions” and “billions,” a mere 96 years doesn’t sound like much, but when we take a look at human history, there aren’t many things humans do that last nearly a century.

Birth of KiwanisFor example, did you know that right now about 63 percent of the world population is governed by some form of democracy? In 1900 this number was only 12 percent. [Shackman, Gene, Ya-Lin Liu and Xun Wang. 2004. Brief review of world political trends. Available at
http://gsociology.icaap.org/report/polsum.html] This simple statistic does a great job at representing how the major changes, developments and innovations (i.e. the Internet)—which we have come to regard as immortal, eternal or simply unchangeable—have yet to truly stand the test of time. Take this truth and apply it to the great service movement of the 20th century. Kiwanis and the other great international service organizations like Lions and Rotary provide a means for people to live out their desire to serve others and connect with their fellow man, but what will it take for Kiwanis serve the next generation?

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