The Dream

By the time this editorial appears in the IAEI News my year as international president will almost be over. As most would do at this time, I am reflective about my years with IAEI and about IAEI then and now. It is said that the longest journey begins with a single step. Looking back over the years, we can trace the steps IAEI has taken to be where it is today. The journey began as a dream that someone had about an organization dedicated to electrical safety and education that made room for all the members of the electrical industry family. It leads from that first dream to a membership of more than 17,000 spread around the globe. It leads from a small, donated office space to a modern, two-story building with several offices, meeting rooms, state-of-the-art training facilities, and shipping, receiving and warehouse areas. It leads from typewriters to desktop computers to laptops. It leads from black and white publications to state-of-the-art, award-winning multi-colored publications. The journey is similar in many ways to the journey each of us has taken. It has many high and low places. It seems to meander at times with neither clear direction nor purpose. During these times, the road has many side trails that lead to dead ends. Steps can be seen that retrace over themselves. At other times, the road seems smooth and straight. The direction and purpose are crystal clear and it seems that cruise control was engaged with no radar in sight.

Knowing where we have been and where we are now are essential to preparing for the future. If IAEI is to exist in the future, we must study and learn from the past and the present. Although there have been some times in our history where we have been stagnant, generally we have been an organization constantly moving forward. We are ever seeking to expand our opportunities to offer education and services to our brother and sister members and others. We now stand on solid ground ready to spring forward into the future with a membership dedicated to a set of common goals, with an excellent financial status, with industry leading publications, with topnotch employees and with representatives to other organizations that are as good or better than any found within the industry. We are ready to take bold strides into the unknown that is tomorrow.

Where does tomorrow lead? We are trying to look into the future and see what is there. Do you sometimes wish you had a crystal ball that would let you peer into the uncertain, mist-covered future and see with clarity what lays hidden there? Or maybe a visit to the Twilight Zone would let you see in bright sunlight what is now covered by deep darkness? Trying to see the future is very much like driving in a heavy fog. You know that there is something out there, but you just can’t quite see it. As you move forward you begin to see dim shapes that become clearer and clearer as you get closer and closer. Sometimes those dim shapes become well-lit highways and other times they become stress in our path. If you decide not to move at all, everything remains hidden within the fog. Going nowhere means you will be passed by those bold enough to move cautiously forward.

Many of us are frightened by what might be just around the next corner and choose to hide our heads in the sand. We are frozen by fear of the future. However, standing still is not an option. If we stand still, we die as an organization. We must continue to move forward. Many of us seem to rush with abandon into the future without any concern for where it might lead us or what we might find there. It seems we are bent on self-destruction. I suspect that most of us find ourselves somewhere between these extremes. We want to know the future, but only the good parts. We want to go forward but ever so slowly so we can see the pitfalls, bumps and trees in the road so we can avoid them. We like to know as much as we can about the next step in the road before we take it.

If there is a tomorrow in the future, time will force us to move toward it. We must ask ourselves a question about this movement. In what direction do we go and how do we get there? Trying to look through the heavy fog that is the future is not easy. Crystal balls do not have a good track record. What we must do is forge together the notions of rushing forward with little or no concern about the consequences of hiding our heads in the sand. The correct path lies between these two. For us to move into the future we must mold these two into one. Doing so will not be easy. The pendulum will swing slightly to one side or the other. At times it will seem that we are too cautious and at other times we are rushing forward with little concern about the consequences. We will always face the question of boldness. Are we too bold or not bold enough?

In my humble opinion, we face a future that is fraught with everything from minor pitfalls to “atomic bombs”. We must constantly be stepping boldly while trying to avoid them. From time to time we will step into a pitfall. We may even set off bomb or two. I believe we have the strength of will and the fortitude to survive. The future will not be easy. It never is. An old proverb says, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” IAEI will certainly face its share of “a little rain.” However, I believe that as long as our eyes are set on the goals of electrical safety, education, support for each other and our fellowman, IAEI will be a strong and active association. We must not let our focus be diverted by petty squabbles or selfish motives nor should we let our ideals be compromised. If we realize that the goals are worth the effort, the race will be won. We must remember the dream that became IAEI and try continually to live it.

The opportunities we will be given in the future will be enormous. They may even be more enormous than the pitfalls and bombs. IAEI will have opportunities to grow into the entire world, to utilize the Internet and other electronic media in ways we cannot even imagine, to forge new partnerships and to advance the safe use of electricity in new and wonderful ways. We will see our working relationship with some old friends go by the wayside and make many new ones. The challenges associated with these opportunities will be difficult. To face those challenges, IAEI must maintain an open mind that is receptive to change and new ideas. It must put the dream that is IAEI into practice.

That original dreamer could not see through the mist-covered future. The dreamer had no idea that IAEI would be where it is today. There was no crystal ball to peer into that would reveal the future. Dreams are only dreams. It takes hard work, dedication, foresight and love of the dream to make a dream a reality. Sometimes, it even takes a little luck. IAEI is where it is today for these reasons. Each of us who are members is sharing in the dream that is IAEI. The duty of each member is to strive to keep the dream alive and flowering. I salute each and every one of you who are working to see the dream remain a reality. IAEI will not survive without you. It has been fortunate to have people who love the dream and work selflessly, with no desire for personal glory, to make IAEI a success.

Doctor Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream.” Because he had that dream and shared it with others, the United States and, in reality, the world was changed. I don’t pretend to equate the dramatic results, grandeur, scope, or need of the dream that is IAEI with the dream that is the civil rights movement. However, there is one thing they both have in common. Like the civil rights movement, the future of IAEI still lies with that original dream. If we continue to believe in and promote the dream that is IAEI, the future of IAEI will be safe. The duty belongs to each one of us. Are you a dreamer? Is IAEI important to you? Do you still believe in the dream? Stand up and do your part! Remember, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

James W. Carpenter
Former IAEI CEO and Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief for the IAEI News, James Carpenter was previously the chief electrical engineer, state electrical inspector for the Engineering Division of the Office of State Fire Marshal, North Carolina Department of Insurance. He had been with the department for twenty years, with twenty years electrical experience prior to coming to the state. He was a member of CMP-2 from 1987 to 2002 and was chairman for the last three cycles. He has been a member of IAEI since 1972. He was also a member of NFPA and is serving as the TCC chair and on the Standards Council. He was on the UL Electrical Council.