Ask Not

By the time this article is printed, my year as international president will have ended. Brenda and I thank each of you for your kindnesses during the section meetings. My time working through the chairs at the chapter, section and international levels has given me friends that I will cherish all my life and has afforded me countless learning opportunities. It has provided me with an appreciation of the hard work done by the leadership throughout IAEI and taught me what it means to be part of an organization dedicated to high standards and goals that are meant to serve the best interest of our fellowmen. I want especially to thank those three people who first introduced me to IAEI and mentored me: Byron Powell, David Miller and Melvin Young.

I spoke to some 1200 people at the section meetings, but know that many members were not able to attend. For those, here is a summary of my speech:

I want thank each member of the IAEI for your membership.

Because you are a member, IAEI will be able to participate in the present and future safe use of electricity.

Because you are a member, we will be able to continue to develop, offer and monitor exceptional programs for certification so that the best-qualified people can demonstrate their abilities.

Because you are a member, we will be able to participate directly in the writing of numerous electrical safety documents that make our homes and businesses safe places to live, work and play.

Because you are a member, you have a voice that represents you. Every time IAEI meets with organizations such as ICC, NFPA, CSA, NECA, IBEW, UL and IEC your interests are voiced.

Because you are a member, we are able to participate in online training sites such as

Because you are a member, we will be able to continue to have representation on numerous committees, to present training and information that is as good as any in the industry, to offer the best in technical publications and articles and to expand our role for your benefit.

Because you are a member, our children and grandchildren will enjoy the safe use of electricity.

The future of electrical safety depends on people being involved. Every day there are people and organizations, even governments, who are attempting to make the electrical business less safe. They tell us such things as self-certification of equipment is safe or that spot inspections are just as good as complete and full inspections and that certification of contractors and inspectors is not necessary.

IAEI is dedicated to and is actively supporting electrical safety. It supports good codes and good laws that promote that safety. Perhaps you want to become involved with IAEI. If you think that one voice is just a small noise that is unheard in the wilderness, join IAEI and let that voice be added to many so that it can be heard above the noise. If you think that working for the safety of our families, our loved ones and our children and grandchildren is important, then work together with IAEI to make it happen. If you want to make a difference, then join IAEI.

If you look at IAEI and are not interested in joining, then for goodness sake get involved with some other organization that actively supports and fosters safe electrical systems. Electrical safety is far too important to ignore. At some point in life we find ourselves reminiscing about the past. I would like to walk down memory lane with you, going all the way back to 1960. I was 13 years old. There was a presidential election in full swing in the United States, the first election I remember much about. One of the reasons it remains in my memory was the black and white television set in my parent’s living room. It brought the election right into my home. I was impressed with the grandeur of the conventions. Even the debates were exciting.

I cannot recall many of the specifics of the election, but the inaugural address by the newly elected president still stands brightly in my memory. I can still see him, in my mind, standing at the microphone, dressed in a business suit. When he spoke, it was cold enough that you could see his breath. He was very young, but also very old as there were age lines beneath his eyes. What he had to say was not the standard political line of the day. He called upon each of us to stand up, take hold of life and give it a shake.

If you do not recognize who that president was, you will probably recognize the most remembered sentence from that address. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy spoke those words with conviction.

Those words are still true today. They are a constant reminder of how we should live our lives. We should be dedicated to the concept of what we can do for others rather than what others can do for us. I know that is not what we are bombarded with day after day. It seems that everything from jean advertisements to health care insurance is aimed at self. They tout what we can get. They promise instant gratification.

Now we know that which has true worth and meaning does not come easily or instantly. It takes hard work and dedication, and it takes commitment.

I am going to ask you a question, and I hope it will make you think: “Why are you here?” Not in some vast cosmic sense; but rather, Why are you at this IAEI meeting?

I have asked myself that question many times, and the answer varies. Maybe the answer is to further my knowledge, or to meet old friends. Sometimes it is to get a couple of days away from work and the boss. Maybe, just maybe, it is to help others. Whatever your answer is, give some thought to the challenge from John F. Kennedy as it relates to your attendance at an IAEI meeting.

People often ask what IAEI can do for them. The answer is, quite a lot. IAEI offers many advantages to membership, such as a truly outstanding magazine, educational programs, unique certification programs, quality publications, direct input into the writing of safety documents, an opportunity for each member to have direct input into electrical safety documents, an opportunity to express your views to others and networking with others.

Those are excellent reasons for joining IAEI. However, there is a reason that far outweighs them, and that is reflected in John F. Kennedy’s challenge. That reason is service to your fellowmen. Service by participating in and supporting an organization dedicated to helping others stay safe and stay alive.

Within IAEI, you can find plenty of opportunities to serve. There are lots of committees, programs to produce, seminars to sponsor, training to give and educational programs for the general public. Be a participant. Be a provider. Be a helper. If you are unsure what you can do, ask someone. Make a commitment to IAEI. Be more than a semi-warm body sitting in the room. Give up that “I’m only one small person and I can’t change anything” attitude. Take a chance! Make something happen! IAEI has true worth and meaning. Its goals are worthy of pursuit. It does deserve commitment. I hope, in some small way, that I have challenged you to be a part of something bigger than you are. If I might be so bold as to steal some language from John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what IAEI can do for you, but what you can do for IAEI.”