Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We Must Come Together

Last week was a horrible week, first with the shooting at a local mall in Oregon, then the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Yet, for me, it was followed by a precious weekend with my grandkids.

Over the last few days, the news has been full of details about the shootings and those with something to say about them, yet often nothing of value was added to the news. I’ve heard politicians and commentators blame this or that. We’ve heard much about the expected proposal of restricting ownership of guns.

The reality is the young men who committed these shootings were either mentally disturbed or consumed with evil. I will not attempt to understand them, make excuses for them, or otherwise try to remove any of the blame from them for what they have done. For whatever reason, they chose to kill others.

American society has a problem. Mental illness is a problem that needs to be addressed, and evil must be confronted and opposed. I wonder how many of those young people who have committed heinous crimes over the past decade did so to be famous. How many let anger or hatred mix with loneliness and insecurity to fill them with the evil or sickness that led to horrendous acts.

Today, how many people walk among us who have no connection with the people in their community? The decline of churches and civic organizations has not improved our communities or society. We must find ways of connecting people once again.
Our nation’s history is one of independent people who band together in common cause. The last 40 years have been ones where we haven’t been as good at banding together. It is time to change that.

When I grew up, I knew everyone in the community looked out for the young people. There were expectations and we tried to live up to them. We made mistakes and learned from them. Even when we were filled with thoughts that no one understood us, we knew others cared about us because we were connected.

The Grange is an organization to connect to people and as a national family organization, we comfort each other in times of tragedy and cheer together at times of joy.

We grieve with the families and community in Connecticut whose loss is so great. Our State Grange in Connecticut has established a relief fund for the Newtown community, and I encourage every member who desires to contribute to the fund to do so. To learn more, click here (http://www.ctstategrange.org/showarticle.asp?id=4084). The families of the victims need our support, both financial and moral.

I also ask that each Grange recommit to reaching out in your community to build connections between people. The government cannot do this, only concerned people in your community can make such efforts possible.

Let us remember that especially in this season, we must reflect upon the blessings and joys, not the tragedies and horrors. We must join together to help those affected by these senseless acts while doing our part to bring young and old together. In this way we may do our part to prevent a future repetition of these acts in our community.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


It is interesting to read about the wide range of commencement speakers at graduation ceremonies around the country. Some offer useful information, others have a political message, and a few seem to just like to hear themselves talk.

While I doubt that I’ll ever be asked to speak to a graduating class, there is no doubt about what I’d share with those young people. It isn’t about you, join in with society, and our great nation is facing serious challenges that need your input are the basic topics I’d cover.

Life is not about you. It is about how you interact with others. It is healthy to have ambition, to set goals and make plans, but you need to realize that the highpoints of your life are supposed to be the times where you make others lives sweeter. It isn’t what you get, but what you give that gives you the satisfaction of a life well lived.

Look in the faces of your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and see their pride in your achievements. Regardless of whether you aced every test or struggled for every passing grade, you have made others proud of you. Your choices, work, and effort to be sitting here today have had an impact on many others. Even your teachers and friends feel pride in your being in this body.

When you find that special person and make the decision to be with them for the rest of your life, it will be about them, not you. It will make you feel so great, but your actions are what will give joy to your husband or wife.

The day you are blessed with a child will mark a change in your life. When you hold that infant, they will look at you with pure innocence. Their life will be yours to affect. Love them, work for them, spend time with them and teach them well. They will be the best measure of your life, not your career, not the positions you’ll hold, and definitely not the media coverage you receive.

Charity is a part of realizing it isn’t about you. Choose your charities by what your heart and values tell you. Remember that it is important to give of your time as well as of your money. It isn’t about feeling good, but seeing the faces of those you help.

Life’s journey will offer many opportunities to you, but never forget that the best things in your life are not about you.

Life is about joining with others to make things better. American society is about independent people joining together in groups, clubs, associations, and churches to help themselves and their families to grow to their full potential. Together we make our communities better places to live.

The strength of the individual is never as strong as when the individual becomes part of a larger group. Your unique talents and abilities can be magnified when you unite with others in common cause.

Learn to work and play with others and life will be far more enjoyable. When you give a smile to a stranger, you will normally get one back. A kind word can make someone’s day and when you help make another’s day a bit better, you start building a group.

Civic groups, business associations, churches, recreational clubs, and fraternal orders all offer opportunities for you to grow and learn in your community. Join, pay dues, be the one who cross pollinates between groups in the community you choose to call home. Take the opportunity to serve others by accepting leadership when it is offered.

When you build a team and watch others grow into the people and leaders they desire to be, your reward is immeasurable. Our nation is about working with others to accomplish impossible tasks and it always starts with a small group who are passionate.

There are a number of organizations that rise to the forefront when I think of the groups I’ve belonged to over my lifetime. I’ve chosen the Grange as the primary organization to be active in because it is focused on the family and community. As I’ve grown and changed, new opportunities have always been available.

America needs each of you to step up to the plate now. Not in a decade or two, but now. Government spending and sky-rocketing debt, regulation of most aspects of our professional and private lives is increasing at an astonishing rate and we cannot sustain it.

Are we going to be a people who face our problems and find new solutions? Is our independent spirit going to be crushed by an ever-growing government? Will the American dream of giving our children a better life started to die?

I don’t believe it. Millions of Americans through thousands of groups will supply the answers to today’s crisis’s. Your input and active participation are not just needed, it is required.

Your opinions will change and evolved as your pass through life. New problems will arise and require new solutions. If you remember that it isn’t about you and that it is by joining in with society that we find the answers, I’m not worried about our American future.

A wonderful life awaits and may God bless each of you!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Heart of America

Over the past two months I’ve put quite a few miles on cars as I’ve visited a number of states. While I’ve been driving from Grange to Grange, the radio has been on and I’ve heard commercials and news reports about the candidates for President, the Senate, and the House.

The commercials either tell you how bad the other guy is, or how great the candidate is. The news is filled with partisan strife and dissension between the parties and candidates.

One thing seems to be missing from both the news and commercials. They seem to think that the heart and soul of America is in Washington, D.C. I believe, and I think most Grange members would agree, the heart of America is out there between the cities.

When you choose to leave the airport and drive, the world becomes more real. When you leave the interstate and slow down for a myriad of small towns, you start to see the heart of America. You slow down for school zones where you often see kids playing outside their school during recess. You pass churches of all sizes and shapes, some with steeples pointing toward heaven and others looking like nondescript warehouses.

At each town’s edge, it is common to see a display of the different organizations and churches to be found in that town and I’ll admit that I feel a thrill of pride every time I see the Grange emblem displayed. 4-H, FFA, and Scouts are proudly supported by businesses, even when only a few cars are parked in front of their stores.

It is common to have people in rural American and small towns wave as you go by. When you stop at a cafe or diner, it is normal to be greeted like a friend. When you ask for directions, they help and usually start a conversation.

Small towns may not have big production companies producing plays, but we have a multitude of groups who love to share their passion for theater at Granges and in community buildings. Appreciation of art and music is a part of our rural and suburban lives.

The news and political commercials all seem to be talking about how important Washington, D. C., is to the local people. For a change, I’d love to hear a candidate talk about the importance of our American hometowns.

I believe that the heart and soul of America is vested in our small towns and rural areas. The values that are imbedded there are what most people are seeking and want in our cities. Our federal government is supposed to serve the principles of our nation, not regulate them. Lifestyles are not legislated, they are chosen and lived.

The government has not given us our hometown values and lifestyle, and government has not made America the land of the free. Instead, those are built by the great people across our nation. The heartbeat of America can be heard all across the United States. It is loudest to me when I’m in a small town or rural area, when I’m standing in a Grange Hall, and whenever I pause at a stop sign see another driving smile and wave.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Senseless Regulation

I listened to a news report today about the Department of Labors renewed effort to implement “farm safety rules” that would stop most labor by children on farms. The two opposing views were presented by two men with partisan positions. One implied that this was in response to factory farms and corporate farms while the other countered that this was regulation to fix a problem that didn’t exist and to expand federal regulation. How about a bit of common sense! I realize that that is a rare commodity in D.C., but it still exists in our hometowns. According to the EPA’s website, corporate farms account for only 3 percent of U.S. farms and 90 percent of those are family owned. Most Americans would consider developing regulations that affect everyone for less than 1 percent of farms is extreme. I am the product of a small American farm. I grew up doing chores, and as I matured I learned how to safely operate a wide variety of equipment. My parents provided supervision, and in looking back, I realize that long before I turned 18, I was safely operating and working on every piece of equipment that we owned on the farm. Since when did bureaucrats in Washington really know when a child has the maturity to do what task? I trust parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the rest of the family far more than some bureaucrat to know what is best for each child. Childhood is a process that we all go through, and it ends in adulthood. It doesn’t happen the night before you turn 18 or 16 or any other age. It is a gradual process where we learn to deal with the world, and the people in it. Those that advocate for safety are not trying to stop participation in sports, yet I have a hunch that more kids get hurt participating in sports than doing their chores on Americas farms. Safety is critical in farming, driving, and a thousand other activities. We all want to protect every child, but government regulation and oversight of every young person on America’s farms will accomplish nothing but doing damage to rural America. Let’s not attack American values by removing the next generation from the farm. Department of Labor: how about instituting a little common sense in your actions.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The World is Really Changing

Encyclopedia Britannica has announced that they are done printing their 32 volume encyclopedia and have chosen to go solely with their virtual edition.

For generations we’ve grown up with volumes of encyclopedias, and the Britannica brand was often viewed as the top of the line. Schools required you to do research in them, parents told you to look things up in them, and you could explore the world on a rainy day just by picking up a volume.

For a number of years, my kids have been telling me to Goggle things rather than use encyclopedias, phone books and other reference materials. While I have learned to use and appreciate much of the electronic world, this decision by Encyclopedia Britannica reminds us all of just how much the world is changing.

Books were prized objects to the wealthy for centuries, and then with the advent of the printing press, they became companions, teachers and entertainment for the average person. Today, in a relevantly short time, websites and e-books are changing the world.

I can see that my grandchildren will grow up checking things out online rather than thumbing through reference books. While the printed word isn’t likely to become obsolete, the word printed on paper may become increasingly rare as the electronic word becomes cheaper, faster and more accurate and thorough.

There are advantages for people to have their reference materials updated daily instead of only when you choose to invest in a new edition. Yet I’m still going to miss holding that heavy book. However, I have a hunch that most of the young people are not going to be the least bit nostalgic for that row of thick volumes.

The world is really changing at a speed that still surprises most of us. We are used to a world where there is a new model at least every year of just about anything we can buy. Many have chosen to learn how to bank online, order items online and we’ve been told for several years that this day was coming.

Today is here and the world has once again changed, at least as far as encyclopedias are concerned.

The Grange has been working to prepare for a different world, and I’m sure that our efforts will bring us new opportunities. As Grange members we’ll adapt once again just as we’ve done countless times in the past.

Junior Grange members and our younger Grange members are often demanding that we move quicker in adopting on line tools and strategies. While our organization does remember that not everyone adopts new technology when it is new, we are adding these new tools as quickly as possible.

Yes the world is really changing, but at least I know that people are still the same, even if they can only access the Encyclopedia Britannica online.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

John and Kermit

I spent quite a few hours sitting in an airport on my way home after the services for John Scott, Past Master of the National Grange. This is the second time in just over a month that I’ve had this experience. Kermit Richardson passed away last month and then John this month.

These two men have been in my thoughts as I’ve reflected on what they meant to Grange members and to me.

John served from 1968-79 and I remember the 79th Annual National Grange Convention in Lancaster, Pa., where he stepped down and turned over the administration of the National Grange to Ed Andersen. He was always an inspiration to me, and decades later when I was elected to the office that he had held, he was the first past Master to call and congratulate me. That simple generous act touched me deeply, and I realized that he cared far more for our Order and the people serving it than in any personal recognition.

John showed all of us how Grange leaders should step back when you leave office. He went home and served his family, community, and Grange. He mowed lawns and cleared snow from driveways just to help others. He never stopped being a leader and he continued to inspire others throughout his life.

Kermit served from 1995-2003 and I had the pleasure to serve as a State Master for four years during his administration. I developed deep admiration and respect for him as I worked with him to advance the Grange in Oregon. Then in 2001, he gave me the opportunity to serve as Membership Director under him.

Kermit opened many doors for me and challenged me to become the best leader possible. His confidence and optimism in the Grange, and in its members, motivated those around him to excel. Kermit built a strong team during his time in National Grange leadership and dealt with many issues include some that others viewed as sacred cows.

John and Kermit were both strong leaders, with definite views and opinions. They both built teams that allowed them to accomplish far more than they could have as individuals. In addition, they both always remembered that the success of the Grange is based in the Community Grange first. Only after we find that success can we prosper at the State and National levels.

I hope that our members who knew them across the country will share their memories of both of these two men with our newer members. Both left their mark on our Order through their service. We should encourage the next generation to remember and emulate them.

Both deserve our respect and admiration and on behalf of all those they touched, and for both I repeat the words from the lessons of our Order, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”