Civil war historians are almost unanimous in their conclusion that the fate of the war turned on one historic battle…the battle for Little Round Top at Gettysburg.
On July 2, 1863, Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a mere school teacher from Maine, was ordered to take his 20th Maine, along with the 83rd Pennsylvania, the 44th New York and the 16th Michigan to the crest of Little Round Top to protect it against a confederate advance. Chamberlain’s troops were outnumbered nearly three to one by the 15th Alabama under the Command of William Oates.
The fighting that ensued was fast and furious. Some 40,000 rounds were exchanged in the course of 90 minutes; saplings halfway up the hill were gnawed in half by the bullets. The Union troops had withstood three advances by Confederate troops. Recognizing that a third of his troops had fallen and concluding that Little Round Top would be impossible to hold by mere defensive measures, Chamberlain placed himself in the front of the line and gave the order to “Fix Bayonets.” His haggard and depleted troops charged down the hill.
Surprised at the offensive charge, the 15th Alabama was soundly defeated, the left flank was secured, and the Confederacy was deprived of marching onto Richmond and beyond.
When reflecting on the battle for Little Round Top, Oates was quoted as follows. “We ran like a bunch of scolded dogs. We had the numbers and yet we were severely defeated with this single act of valor. Great events (the Civil War) sometimes turn on comparatively small affairs.”
A single act of valor. A defining moment.
“Today, the community banking industry finds itself immersed in a war of its own. It is a fight for relevance and survival in a dynamic financial services marketplace. Through no fault of their own, community banker’s wince at the high burden cost of oppressive regulation brought about by institutions less responsive to the needs of their marketplace; seeking gain at the expense of risk and customer vulnerability. Outnumbered by hordes of Wall Street lobbyists and an opportunistic Congress, community bankers find themselves seeking bold leadership to conquer the long odds they perceive as stacked against them.” — Christopher L. Williston, President and CEO Independent Bankers Association of Texas
That bold leadership is you, the community bankers of Kansas. You have stepped up to the task at hand and have refused to give up the battle even though you are outnumbered and outgunned. You fight each and every day for Main Street and our Kansas communities. When the regulators fire at you with meaningless regulation you find a way to comply and still serve your neighbors. When Congress finds new ways to tax your business you pay what you owe and still give back to your communities.
But the battle can only be won if there is commitment by every community bank stakeholder, director, officer and employee to immerse themselves in the conflict. For far too long, far too many have allowed others to wage the battle alone. A vast majority have relied on peers to carry the load of contributing to bank political action committees, carry the community bank message to elected officials and regulators or participated in other initiatives designed to provide CBA and ICBA the tools necessary for maximum effectiveness in fighting these battles.
The CBA is “directed by the members we serve” and as such we can only be as strong as our membership. We are fortunate in that our membership is vibrant and growing. While many states see associations weakening due to lack of membership growth and banker involvement we are experiencing just the opposite. We are strong and we are fighting… for you!
“The heart and soul of any organization is its people. In that respect, the group that calls itself the Community Bankers of Kansas has few equals. The CBA has dedicated its existence to helping members build main streets, not empires. Association members help forge the futures of their customers and community and gather the capital required to build dreams. The future of the CBA is being placed in the hands of the next generation of bankers. Though CBA’s roots began with just a few, the base on which it was built has been consistently strengthened and broadened by a statewide bond of like-minded bankers.
No association is higher than its members. It can only be a composite of its membership. To remain “directed by the members we serve” has long been a CBA maxim. To lose that vision would be a loss indeed. For, if an organization loses sight of its members, it has lost the soul of its function, which is to serve. Meeting the future together remains a focus for both.” —Sue Anderson, Retired CBA Executive Director
It is an honor to serve the community banking industry in Kansas, where personal sacrifice comes before corporate earnings and even though they are seldom acknowledged, great events occur regularly. If you are a CBA member we thank you, if you are not yet a member please give me a call, I’d love to talk with you.
Take a lesson from history. Great events sometimes turn on comparatively small affairs.