The Jaycee Creed

The Jaycee Creed – It’s History and Meaning

The notion of a JCI Creed was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1946 during the United States Junior Chamber National Convention. This convention was attended by visitors from Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, and the Philippines.

C. William Brownfield, the National Vice-President of the United State Junior Chamber, realized during this convention that the organization did not have a creed. Inspired by the devotion of its members “to the purpose of serving mankind in a thousand different ways, right down at the grassroots where freedom lives or dies.” He set out to author one.

The Chamber had “the potential for a new force in the world, one capable of changing the balance between victory or defeat for our chosen way of life in a time of crisis,” as Brownfield saw it.

In July 1946, during a 75-minute drive to work, he came up with the following words and wrote them down…

…”That the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations.

Economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise.

Government should be of laws, rather than of men.

Earth’s great treasure lies in human personality.

Service to humanity is the best work of life.

The first line, “We believe that faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life,” was penned in 1950.

Junior Chamber members have recited the Creed since its inception at meeting and functions. The meaning and interpretation of the Creed has been the topic of much discussion. Brownfield himself said, “Every member is free to interpret the Creed in the light of his own conscience.” This interpretation is based on Brownfield’s own views and what is commonly believed and understood to be the meaning of the Creed to the organization.

In fact, he Jaycee Creed almost never went beyond the point of composition. Brownfield submitted his work to the local President for presentation to the Board of Directors for adoption. The President sat on the issue and did not plan to bring forth the proposal. After some political wrangling the Creed was presented to the local board. After much analysis and debate, the motion to adopt the Jaycee Creed was narrowly passed.

With this success achieved, the next step was to go to the Ohio Executive Committee for statewide adoption. The Exec Committee again conducted lengthy debate and referred the proposal to the Board of Directors with a recommendation for approval. In September of 1946 the Ohio Jaycees enthusiastically approved the official adoption of the Creed as its official statement of beliefs. One week after this accomplishment, Brownfield and Ohio President Jim Riggs traveled to the Pennsylvania Board meeting in Lancaster and championed the adoption of the Creed. Pennsylvania became the second State Organization to officially adopt the Jaycee Creed.

Canadian National President Don MacKay was at the Pennsylvania meeting and he took the Creed home to Canada where it was adopted before the United States ever considered the issue. Consideration of the proposal was to have taken place at the 1947 National Convention in Long Beach, CA. Outgoing President Seldon Waldo opposed the adoption of the Creed and successfully blocked all avenues of debate on the issue. After the convention was officially adjourned, the newly elected Board of Directors met and President John Ben Shepard gave Brownfield the opportunity to address the issue. A motion was passed to refer the matter to the next Board Meeting in Tulsa, OK.

A familiar scenario of passionate debate took place at the meeting in Tulsa but the end result was the United States Jaycees officially adopted Brownfield’s Creed as a statement of its philosophies and beliefs. Fortunately, the International Organization was not a difficult hurdle and at the World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, 1948, JCI also approved the adoption of the Creed. Motion to approve was made by the Philippines (home of JCI #1, Joaquin V Gonzalez).

One of the heavily debated issues on the approval of the Creed was the lack of a reference to God. Shortly after the Creed’s adoption, Andy Mungenast began a lengthy series of communications with Brownfield on this subject. Many other Jaycees echoed the concerns voiced by Mungenast. Brownfield finally agreed with the call for a mention of God and in March of 1950, he found the right words to properly express his thoughts for the organization. Approval of this addition proved to be much easier that the original Creed proposal. The US adopted the change at the Summer Board Meeting in Tulsa and JCI followed with approval at the World Congress in Montreal, Canada (home of JCI #2, Phil Pugsley).

The following 65 words of the Jaycee creed were finally recognized worldwide as the statement that best conveys the standards to which our organization aspires. Jaycees everywhere know and use this Creed, reciting it in as many languages as there are countries that share these beliefs.

“We believe…”

Everyone must have some ideal, principle or philosophy to believe in. This includes practicing what is believed to be true.

“…That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life…” 

This line refers to a supreme omnipotence not a specific deity. It does not matter who or what your God is; the line is saying that you must believe in something. Brownfield’s interpretation reads as follows, “The Junior Chamber membership, drawn from many religious backgrounds, is united by a common bond of faith; that man lives by the will of (his/her) God, that God’s will for man is good; and that the life worthwhile is lived in harmony with His eternal plan.”

“…That the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations…”

Simply interpreted it means, all men and women are created equal. While it respects one’s allegiance to one’s country, at the same time, it reenforces the idea that man is a citizen of the world. Brownfield put it this way: “Man-made boundaries have been drawn and redrawn, separating the human race into many nations. But across these unnatural divisions there has been an intercourse in art, science, commerce, and religion; evidence of man’s universal brotherhood; proof that man himself, not his territorial divisions, is of basic worth.”

“…That economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise…” 

The keywords here are “…can best be won…” Jaycees believe that all people should be allowed to use their skills and abilities to the limit in approving their economy. Brownfield thought “where economic improvement has been greatest, man has been free to follow his dream of making a personal fortune by doing something never done before, or by doing it better.” He also said, “…The system of self-development through private enterprise could be adapted with variations to suit local conditions in many parts of the world.”

“…That government should be of laws rather than of men…”

This means that no one should be above the law and the law should be the same for all people, no matter what status they hold in society. The majority of the people must accept and ratify the constitutional law that the government is based upon. The majority of the people also have the power to change laws and elect governments. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, spoke of a government “of the people, for the people, and by the people.” This line of the Creed goes hand in hand with what Lincoln was speaking of so many decades ago. Brownfield expressed this as meaning: “In a free society, the fundamental law is derived from the people. It is they who hold the final authority.”

…That earth’s great treasure lies in human personality…”

The personality of all humans are unique and separate, which makes us different from other creatures of the world. That difference is what makes the human personality earth’s greatest treasure. It cannot be made or duplicated. Brownfield’s views on this line are: “True treasure lies in the heart’s of men. There is about us a vast field of opportunity for the cultivation of the human personality. It is not the quantity or the length of life that gives it zest, but the quality of living, the achievement we make in terms of human progress.”

…”And that service to humanity is the best work of life.”

Those believing in the Creed will undoubtedly find service to humanity to be the best work of life. Note the word humanity. Brownfield’s interpretation of this line is:”The life lived unselfishly grows richer, deeper, and fuller. Joy is more enduring and peace of mind, more certain. The world looks at the contribution such a life has made and marks the one who lived it as a benefactor of the race; yet he knows in truth the greater benefit has been his own.”

There have been many unsuccessful attempts to change the Creed, but it continues to prevail year after year, remaining as the covenant that holds our organization together. As many people interpret the Creed, it is very important to always practice what one believes in. Many people have made the Creed their guide in life.

Brownfield summarized his interpretation by saying,

Only in the deed can the word become flesh.”

The evolution of the writing and adoption of the Jaycee Creed was fraught with strife, political intrigue and potential pitfalls. But through it all, these words have served to inspire and strengthen individual members, families and communities throughout the Nation and the World. A deeper knowledge and understanding of the Jaycee Creed serves to strengthen the commitment and sincerity of young people who participate in the Jaycee movement.