Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Hero for this Memorial Day

This is Memorial Day weekend and I met a hero today. On my way to the Metro as I headed home, I met a young man in a wheelchair taking his dog for a walk. His wheelchair said combat wounded and had the seal of his branch of service. I paused and asked if I could shake his hand. He smiled and held out his hand. I thanked him for his service and asked where he had served. “Afghanistan” was his response. I wished him the very best and with my eyes misted up continued toward the Metro station.

That young man with no legs and a big smile is my hero. I don’t know his name, but I won’t forget him. I do hope and pray that he forgets me as but one of thousands of people thanking him for what he has done for our nation and for each of us as Americans. He and all those who have given of themselves deserve our ceaseless thanks.

This should be a weekend of remembering and honoring all of those who gave what Abraham Lincoln called the “last full measure of devotion”. We need to also remember and appreciate all those who have served our nation and sacrificed of themselves both physically and mentally. Lastly, those men and women who have served our country and came home safe and sound need to hear our heartfelt thanks.

This weekend isn’t just a three-day weekend, it is a time to remember the gift we have of freedom and those who earned it for us. It is a time to honor heroes and to remember the legacy of freedom they have entrusted to us.

Enjoy the barbeques and family gatherings and take a moment to thank God and all our veterans for the rights we have. It is fitting and proper to remember all who have passed to the next life, but never forget to thank those who quietly walk with us today.

To that young hero, my Dad, my Son, and every other veteran, thank you again and may God bless you and our wonderful nation.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Connecticut FFA Experience

I spent last Saturday at the State Association meeting of the Connecticut FFA. Wow! It has been a few years since I attended a FFA State Session and it was just as powerful as I remember.

When viewed through the eyes of young people like those FFA members, I have no fear for the future of our nation. They were respectful, courteous, enthusiastic, and so talented. Speakers and proficiency winners alike showed the training that these young people get and the commitment they make to excel in the areas they choose to compete in.

The leadership of Victor Salazar, the 2010-11 President and the State FFA officer team was evident throughout the day. I was especially proud as Victor is also one of our young Grange leaders in addition to his duties as an FFA leader.

I talked with at least six FFA members who came up to me and asked many questions about the Grange during the day. I saw the Connecticut State Grange table surrounded with FFA members asking questions and taking brochures and other materials. These young people were interested in our organization because we have things that they need and want.

It is great to see that the FFA has remained true to its principles of teaching young people skills critical to their future. While some of the contests are quite different from the ones I remember in the 70’s, the FFA members of today have the same drive and intensity as members did back when I was proudly wearing that blue jacket.

I’d urge every Grange to find a way to support their local FFA Chapter or to advocate for the creation of the program in their school district. These FFA members are the ones who will join your Grange and there refine the skills they’ve learned. In the process, they will improve your Grange and community!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Big Government Deciding What’s For Lunch

I read an article on the new U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations on school lunches and breakfasts. USDA seems to be seeking final authority on what our children eat, or more accurately, what is put in front of them to eat.

USDA claims to want to match rules to the dietary guidelines that are recommended by the National Academies Institute of Medicine. I do support eating healthy, but I never liked being told what to eat. On top of my natural stubborn streak, I wonder if you double the servings of carrots does that translate to kids eating those servings.

I’ve seen a lot of kids eat only the things that they liked and throw away the rest. If we add more things that a lot of kids don’t eat, are we making things better or is it just waste mandated by the government?

Likely one result of these rules is that schools will receive a few extra pennies for each meal while spending dramatically more on fresh foods instead of canned or frozen foods or substituting high cost food for lower costing food.

While I wish everyone would eat healthier, I don’t believe it is my duty or that it is our government’s obligation to make sure that we take care of ourselves. Plus where is the parental responsibility or why, if this is such a critical issue, isn’t the local school board making this decision.

It seems to me that these USDA regulations are just one more case of unfunded mandates from the federal government. When you look at the financial condition of the federal and state governments, it doesn’t make sense. Plus it is one more responsibility taken from parents and local school boards and given to government bureaucrats who don’t live in our community. I think I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple for lunch, wonder how that would fit in their regulations?

-Ed Luttrell
National Grange President

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Friendship and Life's Journey

I am in New England to say goodbye to Tom Severance, a fellow National Grange officer and friend. Tom passed away on Sunday and his funeral is tomorrow.

It seems every time I lose a friend or family member it is a moment to reflect on the journey we each are on. No matter what we accomplish or who we know, life ends for all at some point. To me there are two essential truths in life to consider. First, what comes next and second, who we touch during our life.

First, I do believe that what comes after this life is critical. I do have faith and believe that our journey doesn’t end in the grave. The spiritual choices we make in this life will affect us in the next life as death is but the doorway. The opportunity to be around people who believe similarly is important to each person. In the Grange, the way we as individuals choose to worship is our choice, but we acknowledge that there is a supreme being as a part of our basic principles.

The people we touch throughout our lives are what our lives are made up of. Bold or quiet, soft or a bit harsh, happy or sad, each person adds something to everyone they touch during life. Friendship is one of the true treasures of life and I have learned that friendship freely given is a powerful thing. Regardless of how often you see someone, the fact that you look forward to seeing them and miss them when they are absent is a sign of true friendship.

My Grange friends are a large part of my life. I’ve been blessed with friends like Tom, people who often live in places I might never have gone without the Grange. People who I never would have met and with whom I have discovered shared interests have become friends due to the fraternal bonds of the Grange.

My life is richer because of my friends, the friends I’ve had who have crossed over into the next life, the friends I have around me today, and the promise of friends to be made in the future. With each step down life’s pathway we need to remind ourselves to treasure all who walk with us, whether for a short while or for many long years, as our journey’s value is measured not in recognition or material goods, but in the friends we make along the way.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Food Costs and Fuel Costs

I am not pleased that food and fuel costs have been rising. Of course, I haven’t talked to anyone who seemed pleased to pay more for food or gas. This week we’ve seen a slight decrease in gas prices and I’ve heard from some that costs will decrease dramatically and from others that they will be heading up again if anything happens to disrupt supply. It seems everyone has an opinion and no one really knows what will happen with fuel prices. However, I haven’t heard anyone projecting food costs to decline.

Even as food prices continue to increase, USDA studies show that farmers share of revenue has been decreasing. In 2008 farmers received just 11.6 cents out of each food dollar spent which is down from 14 cents in 1993. Data has not been compiled yet for 2009 and 10, but farmers are still seeing only a small sliver of the food dollar.

Almost 90 percent of the food dollar is consumed by processing, packaging, transportation, marketing, and the profit markup taken at each point in the trip from farm to supermarket. If fuel costs go up I would assume that each point in our food’s trip would increase the costs of that food. However, history shows that the farmer gets the blame and sometimes even gets lower prices while being blamed.

Even when farmers benefit from strong market prices they are also subject to increases in fuel, fertilizer, and other costs of growing their crops or managing their livestock. Small and large farmers face the same problem of being blamed for higher food prices while receiving a small and shrinking percentage of each dollar the consumer spends.

The cost of nearly everything, including food is directly impacted by the cost of energy, especially fuel. From my point of view the policy of our nation on energy, specifically fuels, is incomprehensible.

Our nation wants energy independence, but the federal government is restricting off-shore drilling as well as prohibiting land drilling in areas of our nation. The government wants people to use alternative fuels, but there are none ready for immediate implementation. Energy independence is said to be our goal, but we also want to tax energy to discourage people from using it.

While I realize I’ve simplified things a bit, if we care about food prices, we need to stabilize fuel costs. I care about food prices because farmers are blamed unfairly for increases and the poor are affected disproportionately by food costs increases.

It is time that Congress takes a bit of responsibility and deals with the issues that prevent us from having true energy independence.