So I’m a big fan of Betty White. I have been ever since my high school girlfriend and I used to watch her flawless portrayal of Rose Nylund on reruns of “The Golden Girls” on Lifetime (Television for Women, and sucker boyfriends).
I watched cautiously as Jay Leno maliciously tried to kill Betty White via heart attack with his game “Will This Make Betty White Flinch?”.
I immediately hopped on the “Betty White to Host SNL” Facebook bandwagon in support of this octogenarians next comeback. As fun as it was to support her bid, it was even better to see her kill as the host of a great episode. Needless to say, Betty White has still got it.
So just what can Betty White teach us about fraternity and sorority life? Let me give you some details…
Before her role on “The Golden Girls”, Betty played Sue Ann Nivens, the quick witted, sassy, and man-crazy co-star on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. As a result, she was offered the role of Blanche Devereaux, a similarly man-crazy and sassy character on “The Golden Girls”. Betty White, not wanting to be type-cast, chose to switch roles with her co-star Rue McClanahan, who was slated to play Rose.
Betty wanted to expand upon what she had already created. She could have been perfectly happy playing the same role all over again; it was familiar, it would be easy, and it is what people expected. As fraternity and sorority members, it is very easy for us to simply repeat last years events, and hope that they’ll end up bigger and better than last year. Your chapter may even be pigeon-holed as “the jocks”, “the pretty girls”, “the academics”, “the artists” or any other stereotype. Don’t allow your organization to fall into a rut, or to be typecast as only catering to a specific segment of the campus population. Have the foresight to expand what it means to be a part of your organization, as well as the limitations of what your organization can do.
According to Wikipedia, “White is a pet enthusiast and animal health advocate who works with a number of animal organizations, including the Los Angeles Zoo Commission, the Morris Animal Foundation, and Actors & Others for Animals. Her interest in animal rights and welfare began in the early 1970s, while she was both producing and hosting the syndicated series, The Pet Set, which spotlighted celebrities and their pets.”
Like many of our chapters, Betty makes sure to find the time to incorporate service into her incredibly busy schedule. More importantly, through her work, Betty was able to find a cause that was of particular importance to her. Many fraternity and sorority members view service as a chore, a mandate from nationals, and/or a necessary public relations tool. For those of us who have been truly impacted by a particular cause, it is easy to explain why we enjoy devoting countless hours helping others. Allow your organization to find a cause that is of particular importance to your members; this could be your national philanthropy, your school’s philanthropy, or another cause that your members truly care about. To do service right, your heart needs to be in it.
Despite the great work she has done for animals, Betty doesn’t want to be called an activist. In her own words, “You know what the problem that animal activists sometimes have? They only concentrate on the heartbreaking things to the point where the general public think, ‘Oh, here comes those animal folks again and I’m going to hear all the things I don’t want to hear.’ They forget to celebrate all the gains that we’ve made. … Sure, there are still big problems, but we’re making some good moves. I’m a big cockeyed optimist. I try to accentuate the positive as opposed to the negative.”
If you are doing it right, membership in a fraternity or sorority is amazingly life-changing stuff. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of negative stories floating around about us, and the media never seems to talk about the good things that we are doing. We can only do so much with our words. Writing letters to the editor and posting responses on news stories has about the same effectiveness as PETA members standing on a street corner passing out pamphlets. If you really want to change the way people see your organization, do it through action. Let the public see you truly living your values everyday. Instead of complaining about unfair stereotypes, get out there and change them yourself! To translate Betty’s words, “Sure we still have big problems, but we’re making some big moves. Be an optimist; accentuate the positive by dispelling the negative”.
Betty’s got her first performing gig in 1939, and has been entertaining the masses ever since.
Betty made a commitment. She has spent over 70 years working on her craft. As fraternity and sorority members, we make a life-long commitment to serving our organizations. Do not let your fraternity or sorority experience end on graduation day.
Hopefully I’ve given you a little bit of an insight to my appreciation of Betty White, and got you thinking a little bit while doing it. Feel free to leave a comment.