What they are, what they are not, and where we need to go.
The patch represents competence, not excellence.
Line up a dozen first responders with the same patch on their shoulders and we can declare all of them competent. They passed the course and then the tests and then they were awarded the patch. Competence, check mark.
Excellence is another level.
Excellence is the compound made of refined practices and effective human principles.
It is knowing both how to do things right and when to do the right thing. It begins inside of us, in our values and it takes form in the world, through our actions.
Excellence is the step by step realization of our own potential as both responders and useful humans in a community. Excellence is the property outside of our comfort zones.
Never stop improving. Never stop learning. Never stop reaching.
The badge doesn’t speak for us, our actions do.
Patches and badges do not embody courage or integrity- our decisions and our actions do. Everyday, every call, every moment in front of another person is that very unique opportunity that this profession affords us - the chance to leave things better than we found them. The chance to make a positive impact on another’s life. Regardless of the uniform or the vehicle we arrive, it is our deeds that will make the difference.
Commit to never missing that chance.
The badge is bestowed authority, not leadership.
Quite honestly, a given rank does not equate to the ability to lead. True leadership is not a position that is attained, rather, it is a service that is given.
Leaders inspire and elevate others, they highlight the cause and they take down barriers to allow others to improve themselves. Leadership is not permission to do less, it is a heavy responsibility to do more.
Having trouble finding leaders around you? Step up, set examples in your work, challenge yourself and your fellow responders. Teach with full respect, listen with deep intent and humbly lead from the middle.
The job marks out the tasks, not the mission.
The mission is to bring the best of humanity to the worst of conditions. This is not easy on any given day. That is why first response is a calling, not a career. This work requires accountability to our neighbors and a commitment to prepare, respond without bias and always be improving.
Fact - better people make better responders. We need to strive to be the responder we would want answering the call of our own family’s emergency.
The patch represents legacy, not completion.
Quite simply, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Those before us blazed trails, they discovered, they made a difference, they made mistakes, adapted and pushed forward. When we put on the patch, we are taking our place on this progress path. We now have a duty to move forward, over, around and right through the obstacles and the adversity.
To note, I was very careful to not use the word ‘tradition’ where I used the word legacy, as traditions are often just an excuse for reactions without thought.
Our profession, for sure, benefits from protocols and standardization. But, we must balance this with a strong situational awareness to the effectiveness of our practices. What is working and what is not? To move forward, we need to observe, assess and adapt. We need to listen to thought, debate with reason and make impactful decisions with all of the information.
What about our principles? To move forward we need to regularly take out our convictions, and vigorously shake them down to look for unhealthy biases, prejudices and assumptions. “The way we have always done things” doesn’t fly here, when lives are on the line and there is a better process awaiting discovery. There simply are no absolutes.
All of this leads to one patch, emblematic of a much larger group that faces challenges together, grows through just struggle and rallies to answer the call of those in need.
This patch does not assume leadership, but rather, inspires us to step forward.
This patch does not symbolize perfection or completion, but rather a state of constant evolution. This patch does not pretend to have a perfect legacy, but it does provide a powerful glimpse of what is possible.
This patch represents the encompassing first responder values of purpose, integrity and courage.
This patch represents service. This patch represents opportunity.
This patch, when it is all said and done, unites us as a profession and as the community we serve.
This patch was made possible by unmeasurable sacrifice.
We should work to earn this particular patch, in and out of uniform, everyday.
Stay safe everyone and do amazing things.
We are about to witness one of the most contested and complex ‘back to school’ seasons in modern times. All Summer, families across the nation have been struggling with the decision to either send their students back to brick and mortar schools or to keep their students at home and continue enrollment in the continuously developing forward learning programs.
Despite the benefits and deficits of each option, anxiety is palpable across the education landscape as students, teachers, administrators and families scramble this week to adjust to a ‘new normal.’ This year’s students are returning to mandatory masks, empty seats on school buses, hand sanitizing stations, no shared supplies, limited hands on labs and eating lunch at a classroom table, by themselves. There will be limited sports, music and arts. There will be no pep rally, no Homecoming, no school play and no school dances. Hallways will be traversed one grade level at a time, one way, single file, 6 feet apart. Many more students will experience the first day of school from the kitchen table, through the screen of a laptop.
It would not be too much of a stretch for one to say that the immediate future for this school year is unknown, the back to school plan is ever changing, the implementations will be at times, chaotic. The overall mood, could for sure, be described as dark.
“In a time of turbulence and change, it is more important than ever that knowledge is power.”
-John F. Kennedy
However, we can all say that we are sending our students back with confidence, because America’s teachers will be there with them. For generations, teachers have represented the demarcation between a disordered and unknown world and a life of confidence and potential. I feel it is time they get their own thin line.