Remember when you were but a wee slip of a lad or lassie? What was that one school assignment that each of dreaded upon our return to the halls of learning in September? We dreaded this assignment not because it was difficult, but because it meant that our summer vacation was at an end, and that we were headed back to our neighborhood school.
That assign was quiet simply, "What I did during my summer vacation." If you are like me, memories of that assignment have grown dimmer by the year. For me memories of those end-of-summer assignments are in the 45-50 year-old range. Even so, I now think that there was great value in that simple assignment. If we think about it, we can now see that an assignment such as that had some really valuable learning tools at its core.
You and I were being asked to think. You and I were being challenged to exercise our memory banks. We had to distill the essence of our lived experience into a series of cogent thoughts. We then had to place those thoughts into an orderly sequence and reduce them to writing. In some cases, our oral delivery skills were challenged when the teacher asked us to read our reports to the class.
I bet you didn't realize the importance of that simple assignment. Relax, you are not alone. Many of our greatest discoveries and achievements in life come only after a great deal of reflection and the actual living of that life. In this week's commentary, I want to share how a number of different people spent their summer vacations.
President Bush learned during his summer vacation that all was not well with his nation's disaster response program. Michael Brown learned that running a horse association was not enough to prepare a man to run a disaster response operation. All of us learned about a tough, cigar-smoking U.S. Army General named Honore who spent his summer bringing order from chaos in the Gulf Region. Dave Paulison enjoyed his last quiet summer for the next few years.
Speaking for my buddy Jack Peltier and myself, we spent our summer vacation on the road. Over the course of successive weeks we found ourselves in Baltimore, Maryland, McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, Denver, Colorado, and Wildwood, New Jersey. We were with our buddies Jim Cubbage and Steve Austin from Delaware and we were on the stump for the issue of Highway Safety.
We met with people from all around the United States. Our mission was to share the message that it is dangerous for all of our people who are operating out there on the highways. We spoke of the many training tips that our fire, EMS, and police associates need to know in order to remain safe while operating on the highways and byways of the world.
My travels then continued with a short jaunt up to scenic Lake Placid, New York at the request of my friend Ed Carpenter, President of the Fireman's Association of the State of New York. It was there during my keynote address to the 133rd Annual Convention of FASNY that I premiered the findings of my doctoral dissertation for Capella University in Minneapolis.
The words of my speech spoke to the five primary issues I identified which are hindering retention of members in the volunteer fire service. I shall share more on these thoughts with you in the future. To say that I am thankful to Ed for allowing me to share my findings with his membership is an understatement. For you see, Ed's theme for the year was Recruiting and Retention. It was a great match and it worked out very well.
There are others out there across America who spent their summers in pursuit of goals that benefited the fire service. Some agendas were laid out by fraternal and professional organizations. Some were created by people who know how to interact with the government of our nation. Others came to be through the efforts of dedicated fire service people who wished to provide a service to their communities.