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Hieu H. Huynh

How did you get started in parliamentary procedure and Robert's Rules?

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Hi All!

 

After being a member of this forum for a few months and reading through hundreds of threads, I feel comfortable enough to start answering questions that get posted here. I know there's a disclaimer that we generally will not know the background or reliability of persons posting responses. I thought to provide a little background on myself. You can check my LinkedIn profile for my professional background. 

 

I got started in parliamentary procedure when I became president of the local chapter in my non-profit organization over 6 years ago. It was quite a crash course since I did not have much experience in being a presiding officer beforehand. After a while, I learned enough to be able to teach the basics of parliamentary procedure to others (using a 1-hour program my organization has called "Parliamentary Procedure in Action"). 

 

A few months ago after witnessing a meeting that was, let's say, not well-run (there was a 10-minute discussion on whether or not to read the minutes), I decided to go deeper. At that time, all the materials I had were based on Robert's Rules, but not the actual book. So I got a copy of the right book, RONR, and started reading it. I also joined this forum and started reading the posts. A few months later, I finished reading the book! And I have a much better understanding of it by reading the posts in this forum! 

 

So I'm curious, how did you get started in parliamentary procedure and Robert's Rules? What made you want to get into this unique area of knowledge? I would love to hear from the regulars to this forum...

 

Hieu H Huynh

(you can use my initials, HHH, to respond to me if you're afraid of mis-spelling my name)

(bonus points if you know how to pronounce my name or can spell it phonetically)

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How did I become involved in parliamentary procedure?  It's a bit of a long story, but I'll hit the high points.  I've had an interest in it all of my adult life, even before college, and was in the student senate and on various committees in college.  I bought a couple of books on parliamentary procedure and Robert's Rules of Order and started reading.  After finishing law school, which taught nothing about it, I took a non-credit night course in it that a local community college offered.   I started buying more books and doing more studying on my own as my involvement in various organizations increased.

 

The catalyst that got me truly involved was being in an organization about 30 years ago that expelled a member, over my strenuous objections, without providing him with due process.   He sued the organization for wrongful expulsion, as I predicted he would.  We ultimately won the case, but only because I was able to convince the other members that we had screwed up and that unless we declared his first expulsion void and gave him a new "trial" with at least some semblance of due process, we would get sued.... and lose.   The others reluctantly agreed.  We went through the process again.   He was expelled.... again.... and did sue, but after a lot of turmoil and expense, we won... only because the Court believed that the second "trial" provided him with due process.  (This was not a purely social organization and there were some financial repercussions to his expulsion).

 

The rest is history.   I've been hooked ever since.

 

Back to you:  For now I am curious as to how to pronounce your name.  I'll stick my neck out with a wild guess and say I think it's probably "Hugh Winn" (or Hugh Hunn).  btw, I have noticed that you have been spending a LOT of time reading both current and old threads!   It's a great educational tool, but I'll admit I was getting curious.  Welcome to the forum!  :)

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I started in student government in college. At my first meetings, I had little idea what all of the terminology meant. I proceeded to order RONR and RONR In Brief. I read the latter text before my next meeting, and the former over the course of the summer.

I found the RONR forum the following summer as a way to keep my skills sharp while Student Senate was not in session. After graduation, I joined NAP and, over the course of the next couple of years, became an RP and then a PRP.

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I got elected President of a local chapter and didn't know about this strange motion to Reconsider.  Posted a question on the old forum and Mr. Honemann and Dr. Stackpole answered it, and I never left this place.  I've learned more from everyone here than I could have ever learned just reading the books.....and I still learn every day here.   I'm a tad better at understanding the motion to Reconsider, thankfully.  :)

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When my "mentor" (that's his term, not mine), Mr. Mountcastle, was elected president of his high school political science club, his father gave him a copy of Robert's Rules of Order (the 75th Anniversary edition; that's how old he is!). Fast-forward a few decades and he found himself managing the website of a local historical society. When he posted the bylaws online he realized they weren't being followed. One thing led to another and he discovered the previous incarnation of this forum. Back when it was still possible (if not entirely rational) to read every single post from "day one". At some point, for reasons known only to him, he "passed the torch" (his words, not mine) to me. And that's how I got started. 

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I've always been curious about complex systesm of rules and such, and I play Nomic on the Internet. I started in parliamentary procedure, however, when I discovered the online practice of the Canadian House of Commons Procedure and Practice. This is also what got me started on late-night Hansard sessions in high school.

 

At some point in my investigations I learned of Robert's Rules, then promptly checked out the library's copy and read it. I had no occasion to use it, however, until I came to university, whereupon I immediately became the most knowledgeable member of my faculty's student association with regards to parliamentary procedure. I joined the council, presided on and off, was elected to the University Senate and later the Board, and served a year as chair of the school-wide students' council (though I have never been a member). I also served as parliamentarian for a contentious general meeting with several hundred attendees, which was a lot of fun (we had six motions pending at once! Six!)

 

There's a running joke that I can't participate in any organization without rewriting the bylaws. It's not that far from the truth. I'm now starting to make the transition into paid work, which is exciting as this is something I really enjoy.

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I wrote mine up (some scoffers called it "The Secret Origin of Captain America," which, as everyone knows, was really in an issue of The Avengers in 1964) as introducing my trip report on the 2003 NAP worldcon in 2003 in San Antonio.  I got about four pages written -- I was on a deadline -- and was afraid for a while I wouldn't get the narrative out of the San Antonio airport before I had to hit To Be Continued, and was relieved when I managed to get to reaching the hotel, agreeing to meet George and Mrs Mervosh in the hotel's bar or restaurant (I forget which it was, but, not, in this instance, which is which), then getting there and realizing I had no idea what he looked like.  I dithered at the entrance for a moment, then walked through the room, scrutinizing every patron and fetching waitress intently, looking for some telltale sign:  a sagely twinkle in the eye, his vade mecum which always contained his RONR, bloodstains on his cuirass.

 

And I left the room at the other end, fruitless and frustrated.  So I found a chair in the lobby, mulled for another moment, crafted a plan, returned to the entrance, and then walked through the room, scrutinizing every patron and fetching waitress intently, looking for some telltale sign:  a sagely twinkle in the eye, a vade mecum which always contained his RONR, and bloodstains on his cuirass.

 

Achieving the same result, I returned to the chair in the lobby, earning me some little scrutiny of my own from the hotel registration staff and maybe their security personnel -- I thought maybe the bulges under their coats were their copies of the 800-page book, but left that investigation for another time.  It came to me that I was coming at the problem in an excessively Cartesian, classical-mechanics, left-brain sort of way.  Instead, for my third  sortie through the restaurant (or bar; by this time I didn't care what the heck they sold), I settled on employing  my understanding of Eastern philosophy, which I had studied at Brooklyn College thirty years earlier by smoking grass:  I would walk through the room having cleared my mind, empty of thought and intention (also a good way to pick up girls, at least I keep trying it), leaving it to the fates to determine mine.

 

Instead, George apparently got fed up with the prospect of watching me meander pitifully through the hotel all afternoon, and genially said, "Gary."  Figuring I would have the presence of mind to answer to it.  Fortunately, this time I did.

________

N. B. This is from ten-year-old memory.  Details may blur.  Also, what'ch'ma'call'em ... facts. [This addition posted after Post 11 here]

Edited by Gary c Tesser

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I still consider myself very much a student, sometimes with only enough knowledge of parliamentary procedure to be dangerous. This is one reason why I joined the forum and have asked a few questions.

 

My first introduction was in a social / charitable organization that met quarterly. The year before there had been a fairly complete revision of the bylaws. At the annual meeting a new president was elected from the membership. At the next quarterly meeting that new president submitted 5 proposed bylaws changes. There was some objection on the authority of the president to revise the bylaws. It was one member’s opinion that since they were revised last year they were clearly perfect and should not be revised or amended until the next required revision in ten years. This debate was tiring but got me hooked. It ended up with the president relinquishing the chair and then getting recognized as a member by the vice president and making his proposals as a member. This all ended up with the postponing of all five proposals until the next quarterly meeting and the board of directors calling in an outside arbitrator to preside over the next meeting, multiple people standing and debating what was on various pages of various different books all claiming to be Robert's Rules. That is what made me go and buy my first copy of RONR.

 

Fast forward a few years, I was a member of a union at work, and realized that our union rarely followed it's won bylaws and that some of those bylaws were somewhat out of date. The president appointed me parliamentarian, but I think he thought that would shut me up. I ended up chairing a bylaws revision committee in the union and things went smoothly until that union disbanded a few years later. Looking back on it now, I realize what a poor choice I was for the position.

 

I have since been in a few other organizations, now I am the president of the board of directors for my condominium association and a member of a local town committee for a political party. Through those bodies I have been involved with amending or revising bylaws and other related documents, namely political resolutions and Standard Operating Procedures in a volunteer fire department which referenced different sections of the bylaws depending on the subject.  I even got to try my hand at researching and writing an ethics policy once although that proved to be quite a handful. I don't think I ever would have been involved in any of this had I not be to that first contentious society meeting.

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Although I have just begun posting here, I will add my $0.02 worth.

 

My introduction to parliamentary procedure happened in high school when I was on an FBLA parliamentary procedure team.  I observed some older friends preparing for a competition during my freshman year, and in my sophomore year I was invited to join the team.  At that time, we used the 1990 edition of RONR.  At the same time, I was appointed as the youth representative to my church's executive board. 

 

Fast-forward more than twenty years.  When I became an officer in a fraternal service organization, I saw that the meetings had much room for improvement.  That led me to buy a new copy of RONR, and also to look online to refresh my memory of parliamentary procedure.  Then I found this forum, where I have been reading past and current threads to expand my knowledge.  Now that I am president (actually an organization-specific title equivalent to president) of the aforementioned organization, I hope to bring more order to our meetings.  One strategy I am using is to post a short article about parliamentary procedure in our organization's newsletter.  So far, I have covered (A) the difference between lay on the table and postpone definitely, and (B ) previous question, both of which seem to be commonly-misunderstood topics. 

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I've served on a couple of not-for-profit boards in the past, but I was lucky that we had members with good experience in parliamentary procedure to rely on and the boards I was involved with generally got along, so I never had to acquaint myself with the nitty-gritty of Robert's Rules of Order.

Over the past six months or so, though, two things happened:

- I became secretary of a local club in an international organization. The club president is very inexperienced with parliamentary procedure and I've found that he relies on me for advice on these matters. I want to make sure that the advice I give is correct.

- I started working on my Advanced Communicator Gold through Toastmasters. One of the requirements is that you present an educational workshop from a set they specify. I wanted to do something that satisfied the requirements while being of benefit to the community, so I decided that I would present Parliamentary Procedure in Action (the same one Hieu mentioned) to interested board members from local charities. I don't have the knowledge to do this yet, but I'm working toward it.

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5 minutes ago, Guest George Wells said:

Gary c. Tesser has passed away.

Oh, my gosh....  I'm so sorry to hear that.  Thank you!  I became "online" friends with Gary on the "old" RONR forum around 2000 or so and met him in person when we shared a room at the NAP Biennial convention in San Antonio in 2003. It was my first NAP convention... and his, too, I think. We have talked by phone many times.  I'm truly sorry to hear that he has passed away.

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On 12/9/2018 at 5:16 PM, Guest George Wells said:

Gary c. Tesser has passed away.

Oh my goodness.  I am so sorry to hear of that. 

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