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Canadian Tourism Department Presents Colonel Bill Smullen with the Famous Calgary White Hat

    Sven Stafford, Syracuse University

April 1, 2010

Smullen HatWhat do Bill Clinton, George Bush, the Dalai Lama and Bill Smullen have in common?  If you were to guess that they are all honorary citizens of Calgary, then you would be right and well informed.  The honor is bestowed by the White Hatters, an organization that recognizes those who provide visitors and Calgarians with outstanding service and Western hospitality.

The Colonel was in Calgary March 29 and 30 to present talks at the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) and the Calgary Public Relations Society (CPRS).  At CERI Colonel Smullen addressed the “Battle for World Opinion,” which focused on an organization’s ability to influence perceptions of their actions.  The talk specifically centered on ways to engage audiences and stakeholders to promote greater appreciation and understanding of an organization’s motives and actions, and to have those actions accepted as responsible.  This is especially important in the oil sands industry, which is often painted as “dirty oil” as opposed to “innovative,” and is in danger of losing control of the message.

At CPRS Smullen spoke on America’s Promise, a non-profit set up by Colin Powell to harness the potential of American children by preparing them for the demands of global competition and the rewards of engaging with the international community.  Smullen was instrumental in bringing this organization from chalkboard to reality.  His talk to CPRS focused on “Building a Brand from the Ground Up,” which drew from his experience working with General Powell to build a culture around the initiative while raising an army of committed volunteers dedicated to investing critical resources into the lives of at-risk youth.

The highlight of the trip, however, was the presentation to Smullen of the famous Calgary White Hat.  First made in 1926 by a young Morris Shumiatcher, the White Hat became the internationally recognized symbol of the Calgary Stampede and the City of Calgary.  In 1949, Mayor Don Mackay began passing out the White Hat to dignitaries, a tradition that continues to this day (White Hat). The Colonel was honored to receive the hat, and has promised to wear it on his next stampede.