"It's the people, stupid!"
During the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton's handlers kept his message focused on the economy by having him adopt the slogan: "It's the economy, stupid!" Whenever I start to drift off message, I want someone to keep me on the right focus in life: "It's the people, stupid!"
Ralph Vinson graced our general session this year with the Founder's Message. He spoke about what was truly important during his 35 years in the AASV. He concluded that it wasn't "bugs and drugs" or the price of hogs. It was the relationships and friendships he developed through the years with clients and colleagues. Many of us find out too late that it is those relationships, built over decades of practice, which are truly important and are a gift from God. While our annual meeting brings us together to talk "bugs and drugs," it is really just a good excuse to renew old friendships and make new acquaintances. It seems the time always goes by too quickly.
I have discovered that while the program or a certain speaker will attract me to a meeting, the prospect of interacting with friends and colleagues is the "poke in the rear" that gets me to pack my bags and get on the road. What is the attraction? When we interact, we give a bit of ourselves. In return, we get something back from each person with whom we interact.
Norman Vincent Peale once said: "To be successful is to be helpful, caring and constructive - to make everything and everyone you touch a little bit better. The best thing you have to give is yourself." I cannot read this quote without thinking of some our colleagues who have touched me over the years. It certainly seems as though I have taken a lot more than I have given back. But, if it were not for this personal interaction, neither person would have a chance to gain. It is not a zero-sum game or a one-way street.
When I was a new member, the "old guard" always found time for small talk and to show interest in what "the family" was doing. I am talking about Steve Henry, Connie Schmidt, Ralph Vinson, Roy Schultz, Alex Hogg, LeRoy Biehl, Kent Kislingbury, and Al Leman. These men and others are truly successful if you apply Peale's definition.
Al Leman, in particular, left us with a great legacy. His life continues to touch us in unseen ways. Leaving a tangible legacy is easy compared to leaving the intangible legacy of who you really were. Al has left us with a legacy of touching and influencing others. He had a special gift of people skills and he has passed it on. Every time one of us who were influenced by Al reaches out to touch another, his legacy is borne out. I challenge all of us to keep the legacy alive and pass it on, leaving our own legacy of who we were. The world will be a little better place.
As I have matured in the organization, I, too, gain from interacting with students, recent graduates, and new members, as well as all the friends I have made along the way. I find myself energized by visiting with all those whom I have met through preceptorships and the AASV. I hope it is mutual!
Sometimes I get caught up in the day-to-day grind of fighting PRRS virus and Strep suis. Then, the phone rings, and a friend or colleague who I haven't talked to for a while is on the other end. What a lift! I just need to be reminded occasionally to stay on message and never forget: "It's the people, stupid!"