April 22, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of an organization dedicated to the success of American business: The United States Chamber of Commerce. At the invitation of President William Howard Taft, 700 delegates from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., in 1912 to form the Chamber. In part, Taft said:
We want your assistance in carrying on the government in reference to those matters that affect the business and the business welfare of the country, and we do not wish to limit your discretion in that matter. We wish that your advice should be as free and unrestricted as possible, but we need your assistance and we ask for it.
The delegates wasted no time organizing and launching. Within a year’s time, they were pushing Congress to enact a National Budget and arguing for the creation of the Federal Reserve.
Now 3 million members strong, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is still the loudest voice calling for sound business laws and procedures in Washington. The Chamber has been there to help us recover from two World Wars and the Great Depression. It has formed international groups to help tend to American business interests abroad. It has been granted consultative status at the United Nations. And it has continued to draw attention and praise from the Executive Office. Addressing the Chamber at its annual meeting in 1960, President Eisenhower said:
You have established in this country a very enviable reputation for making recommendations to the Government or for stating propositions before our people that are based upon principle and not expedience.
The United States Chamber of Commerce is neither a Republican nor a Democratic organization; it is an American organization offering principle-centered guidance to help the nation stay on track.
It is the one organization you can count on to stand up for the free enterprise system and consistently hold the government accountable to the businessman’s litmus test: What is the economic reality of your decision?
Surely, there is more to the life of a nation than its business concerns—but without those concerns, the nation cannot function.
Happy birthday, United States Chamber of Commerce!
(Melaleuca CEO, Frank VanderSloot, currently sits on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Thank you, Frank, for your unrelenting service on behalf of America’s small businesses.)