Optimist International

Birth and Growth of Optimist International

Marker #2578 in Louisville commemorates the birth and growth of Optimists International, one of the world's largest service club organizations with over 80,000 adult and youth members in almost 3,000 clubs across the globe. On June 19, 1919, less than 1000 feet from this marker, delegates representing 11 independent Optimist Clubs across the United States met at the former Tyler Hotel at the corner of Third and Jefferson for the first International Optimist Convention. That afternoon, the 69 delegates in attendance adopted a constitution, and Optimist International, known as "The Friend of Youth," was officially born.

William Henry Harrison of Louisville, a charter member of the Optimist Club of Louisville, was elected the first President of Optimist International and was the only president to serve two terms. The Louisville club was started in 1916 by 40 community leaders. Under Harrison's leadership, the new organization grew to 27 Optimist Clubs.

A relative of two United States presidents, William Henry Harrison, served as the president of Bethel Male College in Russellville in the early 1900s. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Kentucky Colleges. He was active in many other community organizations in addition to the Optimist Club.

Kentuckians have served significant roles within the Optimist International organization. A.B. "Happy" Chandler, the two time Kentucky governor, served on the Executive Committee of Optimist International and was named the organization's first director of sports and athletics in 1927. Also, in 2006, Ronnie Dunn of Frankfort became the first female international president in the organization's history. In the summer of 2019, The Galt House in Louisville was host to the 100th International Convention, welcoming more than 1300 attendees over a period of four days.

Today, Optimist Clubs are dedicated to "Bringing Out the Best in Kids" and do their part through community service programs. Each club is self-directed and run by local members; therefore, Optimists have the unique flexibility to serve the youth of their area based upon the needs in each community. Optimist International officially sponsors several international programs, including the Childhood Cancer Campaign, Internet Safety, and the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships. The organization also sponsors three youth scholarship contests, an Essay Contest, an Oratorical Contest and a Communication Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Optimist International encourages involvement in several other community activities, such as Respect for Law/Promotion of Non-Violence, Youth Appreciation and Youth Safety.

Optimists conduct 65,000 community service projects each year, spending $78 million in their communities. Annually, six million kids are positively affected by Optimist programs.

Optimist Club #2578
Birth of Optimist International

In June 1919, Optimists from 11
cities met at the Tyler Hotel to
organize Optimist International.
The delegates at the convention
elected William Henry Harrison of
Louisville to serve as the first
International President.
Optimists around the world are
known as "the Friend of Youth" or
"Ami de la jeunesse."

Presented by the Past Presidents of Optimist International

Growth of Optimist International

Since 1919, Optimist Clubs have
spread around the world. Wherever
Optimists live, they share the
values expressed in the "Optimist
Creed." They also share the
mission of bringing out the best
in youth and in their communities
by sponsoring programs for youth
scholarships, sports, leadership,
and health and wellness.

Presented by the Past Presidents of Optimist International

This marker was dedicated on June 29, 2019.