Byron's Babbles

Leadership Traits Of A Farmer

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 8.39.13 PMLast week was one of my favorite times of the year. It was the week of our county fair, Besides loving helping my son prepare his dairy show cows for the 4H and open shows, I love visiting with community members. My favorite visits, though, are with former students. It is like a big reunion. All of my former students are special, but I have one former student that always schedules some time to sit and have a very quality visit. I end up blogging about our visit every year. I value this time because I learn so much. He always wants to know about what is going on in my life. This year, like every year, he had advice, words of wisdom, and encouragement that I will use in my professional life. Click here to read last year’s post entitled I Have Paid For An Education With My Mistakes about Andy Clark. Andy easily makes it to the top of my list of most respected students. He has truly become an outstanding agricultural leader.

IMG_3330During our visit this year I became even more proud of Andy than I already was. He has done an outstanding job of improving, expanding, and innovating his family farming operation. As we visited I realized what a great leader Andy had developed into. The impressive part to me is that he continues to develop himself and grow professionally. He does not settle for status quo. We had the chance to visit for about five hours sitting at our cattle stalls and I picked up on six leadership traits that Andy has really developed and honed that would make many CEOs jealous. I’d like to share these traits with you here:

  1. Innovating – Innovation is a very important leadership trait. Andy has created different paths for producing for markets with specific needs. These specific needs offer a better chance at evening out the peaks and valleys of commodity marketing. Amazingly, once he has innovated in one area, he is already looking for the next.
  2. Resourcefulness/Adaptation – Andy clearly has a handle on looking for ways to improve efficiency, make use of byproducts, and reformulating to keep the farming operation on a progressive track.
  3. Managing Time and Leading People – I was so impressed when Andy was describing his plans he had recently put in place to retain and develop his employees. His wage/compensation plan has made it possible for him to retain and attract employees and have them where they need to be, at the time they are needed. A large part of his operation is in forage making for dairies. Anyone who has ever made hay or chopped silage knows you must harvest when the crop is right. Andy has developed his leadership skills for maximum employee efficiency. He understands that the achievements of our workforce are crucial to the successful delivery of strategy.
  4. Financial Management – Every dollar saved in expenses is a dollar that directly benefits the bottom line. While expense control is time consuming and tedious, great farmers spend the time to reap the benefit. Living expenses, equipment and machinery purchases, decisions related to using contracted services (like custom chopping of silage), spending habits, areas where can you cut back, and investments that aren’t the best ideas today. These can be the differences between breaking even, losing money or just eking out a profit. Andy knows to the exact penny what it costs to produce a bushel of grain or ton of forage.
  5. Attention To Detail – During our visit, Andy pulled out his cell phone and began to give me a tutorial lesson on JDLink™. This allows Andy to see critical and timely information about his machines, online, and better yet, on his cell phone. By using the MyMaintenance™ app, he is able to move data to and from his machines – easily, securely, and wirelessly. This enables Andy to support his machines and employees, thus keeping the operation running smoothly and efficiently. We talk a lot about SMART Manufacturing and Industry 4.0, but this is truly Agriculture 4.0. Andy is on the pioneering side of using it.maxresdefault
  6. Growing Professionally – I don’t think I know anyone who is constantly learning to the extent that Andy Clark does. He was like that in high school – always studying something and thinking about the next thing he might want to do. He’s like the farmer version of Curious George®. Andy stays connected to knowledgeable sources of the latest information and innovations. He is very interested right now in robotics and wants to be a pioneer in the use of robotic equipment. The bottom line is that Andy is motivated to learn – a characteristic of a great leader.

As you can see, Andy Clark has developed into quite farmer and leader. Every year when I visit with him I become prouder of him and more impressed with him. We are planning to get together before another year passes and I hope we do because I learn and grow every time I have the opportunity and sit and visit with Andy. Do you have leadership traits that you need to develop and hone?

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Good Leader Traits

This past Friday in a session I did for our Noble Education Initiative Impact Indy Program we developed a top five list of great leadership traits. To get to that end, we developed a bad leadership trait list and then moved into the good list. Then we voted our way to the top five, great list. I would like to provide you with our top five in this post with some of the commentary about each one discussed during the session.

Here they are:

  1. Trust – No big surprise here. Trust tops most lists characterizing great leaders. It’s at the root of every good relationship, including that of leader and employee. When your team trusts you, and they perceive that what you’re doing is honestly in their and the organization’s best interest, you are more likely to have an engaged team.
  2. Consistent – Consistency was a multifaceted item on this list. First, as a leader, you want to communicate a consistent focus on just a few critical issues (at most three to five) for each employee or team. And then you want to relentlessly follow up and focus only on those few issues. Less is more. Second, the great leader will have consistent moods, behavior, and decision-making so that her team knows where she is coming from. Finally, there must consistency in the message and actions delivered. The simple adage of “do what you say” goes a long way as most customers, families, students, or other stakeholders are accustomed to broken promises and poor service. With consistent delivery and consistent service, we can put all our focus on promoting a positive and consistent brand image with those we serve, including our customers.
  3. Transparent – Employees learn more about one another and can grow to work toward solving problems faster when their leaders are transparent. Transparency also allows relationships to mature faster, as openness can potentially avoid misunderstandings that can fuel unnecessary tension. If we are transparent, we can actually strengthen our role as a leader because those we serve begin to trust (see, there is our #1, trust, showing up again) us as person and thus will respect us more as a leader.
  4. Open To Constructive Criticism – If you are not being criticized, you are not leading and guiding the organization to grow, innovate and explore endless possibilities. We all have areas we need to improve in. Additionally, we must use criticism as an avenue to learning. Criticism can provide valuable insight for making course corrections. Don’t be offended by criticism, use it to your advantage.
  5. Passionate – Passion inspires others to join and identify with the organization’s vision. When we are passionate about something, it shows all over us. We can’t help but think about it, work at it, and be excited about it. Most importantly, passion is as contagious as a cold. Ever notice how your own enthusiasm escalates when you are around passionate people?

Pretty awesome list wouldn’t you say? What’s on your top five? Would you change any of these, or re-order the list? I would love to have you add your comments to this post.

What Do You Really Want?

IMG_3343Yesterday at our Impact Indy program to kick off our Noble Education Initiative supported schools in Indianapolis, Indiana I did a program titled: Leading Like a Rock Star: Chaos and Earthquakes. To kick off the program I played the video of the song “Do You Really Want It” by one of my favorite bands, Nothing More. Click here to watch the video:

Even if you are not a fan of the same genre′ of music as me, you’ll have to admit that the words make you think and reflect. The chorus really gets to me: “Everybody wants to change the world, but one things clear; nobody wants to change themselves.” So true! This is one of those Walk the Walk or Walk the Talk things. Do we really want to make the changes or develop ourselves in the ways necessary to make the revolutionary and transformational changes we need?

IMG_3344Our discussion was very rich around this topic. I had the participants write down two things they had recently changed about themselves and two things they had resisted changing. It was a very open and candid discussion. Amazingly, in all cases when someone had gone ahead and made a change in themselves they were resisting, it led to great results.

“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” ~ Winston Churchill

Fortunately and unfortunately, we are creatures of habit. Our brain creates neural pathways from repetitive thoughts and behaviors in an attempt to be efficient and make those things easier. And after some time, they become our default way of functioning. For things we want to change this is default is unfortunate, but we can you is to advantage by making the new changes the new habits or default. We live on “auto-pilot” in some cases. Even with an intention to change, we find ourselves repeating the same behaviors and experiencing the same thoughts. When these thoughts are based in doubt and fear, they are even harder to change. On some level, they are serving a protective function for us.

IMG_3345Some changes we resist because biologically we seek to stay status quo or be in a state of homeostasis. But, some changes we resist because of being hypocritical. I believe the chorus in Nothing More’s song, “Everybody wants to change the world, but one things clear; nobody wants to change themselves,” really describes this hypocrisy. It’s the old “do as I say, not as I do” syndrome. This hypocrisy doesn’t just undermine a leader’s authority, it can also directly threaten how the group functions. A leader’s perceived personal integrity, in other words, is a cue for how everyone who follows to interact.

If we want to make positive change, we must be willing to change ourselves and make our actions match our words. When the talk of the leader makes about what she values is consistent with her actions and the things she rewards, her followers will be more willing to engage and treat one another like neighbors. This alignment creates the feeling that when people put in effort on each other’s behalf, those efforts will be recognized and they’ll be supported when they need it. And it leads to trust that the organization or community has its members’ long-term interests at heart.

Unfortunately, this trust is lost by the hypocritical leadership we are discussing here. Hypocritical leadership is when a leader says one thing, but does another. It is when someone exhorts behaving one way, but then continues to behave in another. On the other hand, however, demonstrative leadership is when leaders not only talk the talk, but walk the walk as well. Are you ready to demonstrate changing yourself? Do you really want it?

Pathways to Success after High School

A high school diploma no longer is the finish line—it’s now the starting line. Job growth and trends over the past 10 years have shown about 95 percent of jobs require some education after high school.

Recognizing that Indiana must offer more than a one-size-fits-all standardized test, the Indiana General Assembly took action to provide meaningful pathways for Hoosiers’ success. In the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers directed the Indiana State Board of Education to modify Indiana’s graduation requirements, ensuring students are better prepared to enter a new economy. The goal was simple: offer pathways that provide relevancy for students and better prepare them for life after high school.

Later that year, the State Board approved what is now known as Indiana’s Graduation Pathways. During this process, the State Board collaborated with national and state experts while engaging students, parents and educators on how to effectively deliver lasting value to all students through their education journey.

To complete a pathway, a student must take several actions, including fulfilling Indiana’s course requirements and completing an employability experience by applying classwork to real-world situations. This could include completion of an independent research project, participating in meaningful civic engagement or having a part-time job, apprenticeship or internship. Students must also choose a benchmark that best suits their career goals, such as taking the SAT or ACT to attend college, completing the ASVAB to join the military or earning a state-and-industry recognized credential or certification to join the workforce. Selecting and completing a pathway ensures students are better prepared to transition from high school to college, the workforce or the military.

While Graduation Pathways won’t be a requirement until the class of 2023 – this year’s eighth graders – some Indiana schools are implementing Graduation Pathways right now. In these school districts, parents and educators can have conversations with their students about an individualized graduation plan that provides students a relevant education, prepares them for the global economy fuels a desire for lifelong learning. Parents should have conversations with their local school officials to determine the implementation timeline at their child’s school.

Using Graduation Pathways allows Hoosier students to transition from high school into life’s next steps. Together, we’ll raise the bar for our state’s future workforce, so that today’s students will graduate with the relevant skills needed to compete in a global economy.

“The Rock” In The Atlantic Ocean

Yesterday while exploring the rocks along the Atlantic Coast of Maine I found a beautiful rock that once I took out of the ocean 🌊 wasn’t so beautiful any more. That experience prompted this VLOG Post:

https://youtu.be/lK92Io2ocWc

Meaningful Learning On A Lobster Boat

This week while spending time with the family on the coast of Maine I was reminded how important, meaningful and experiential learning experience are – for both adults and young scholars alike. I had the opportunity to get us aboard a commercial lobster boat in Rockland Harbor, Maine. Yes, this was no site-seeing cruise, it was an actual experience on the boat checking, emptying, and re-baiting lobster traps. Even though we were on vacation, I always want there to be some family learning experiences. That same morning we had stopped and spent time in Brunsick, Maine at Bowdoin College learning more about Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. You can click here to read my blog post about that experience entitled, Independence Day Leadership Lessons From Maine & Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

Hope, Heath, and I all love lobster, but knew nothing about how they were harvested or the industry of getting them from ocean to table. I knew a little bout their life cycle and had blogged about it in Leading Like A Lobster, but other than that I was ready to be a sponge for learning. We started off by learning that the different lobsterwomen and lobstermen have an area assigned with their special license for harvesting lobsters, and in our case, our lobsterman had the ability to put out 800 lobster traps; or lobster pots as they are often called. We also learned that each lobster boat has their own buoy colors, much like horse racing silks, to identify his or her lobster traps. We were looking for white buoys with a black stripe, and orange fin (see picture) attached to the lobster traps. We really didn’t have to look, though, the captain had the all entered in his GPS.

Lobster traps are interestingly designed tools of the trade. The first “room” the lobster enters is the “kitchen” where lobster-enticing bait is hung. Bait may be fresh or salted fish on a line or tied in a hanging bag. After the lobster enters the kitchen, it grabs a piece of bait with its claw and begins maneuvering towards an exit. It is difficult to go out the way it entered due to the design of the funnel. As the lobster continues seeking an exit, it passes through another funnel leading to the “parlor” or “bedroom” in the rear of the trap. Here, the larger lobsters become trapped.

Once a buoy is located, the trap is pulled up using a motorized pulley system. Click play and see my video I made of this process below this paragraph. If lobsters are in the trap they must be measured using a special tool. Lobsters must be 3 1/4″ from the head to the base of the body (where the tail starts). Lobsters that are big enough are thrown in the holding cooler and ones that are too small are thrown back. The lobster trap is then re-baited and sent back down to the bottom. In our case we were using Herring that our lobsterman gets from his wholesaler who buys his lobsters. These are fish that have died or do not meet the grade to make to retail. Nothing is wasted out there.

The keeper lobsters, which are usually anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 pounds with some weighing up to 2 pounds, then have their claws bands so they do not harm the other lobsters, or us. To see the banding process, click play on the video I made of being taught how to band the claws below:

It was so awesome to be out on the water learning this business. At the time we were there the lobsters were going through ecdysis (molting). To learn about this read my post Leading Like A Lobster. We learned that those lobsters beginning the process of losing their shell to go through another growth spurt have soft shells. To see if they are hard or soft shelled you hold the lobster between your thumb and forefinger like I am doing in the picture. The hard shelled lobsters are hard as a rock. The soft shelled lobsters are soft and pliable. These soft shelled lobsters are desirable to many because the meat is much sweeter. In fact at the retail lobster places they will ask if you want soft or hard shelled lobsters. Note that the lobsters we brought home were all soft shelled. And…they were outstanding!

The lobsterman then brought his catch back to the dock after checking the traps. Our lobster tries to check about 1/3 to 1/2 of his traps every day. Many check all traps every day. The lobsters can then be sold directly to customers that come to the docks to by directly from the lobster boats (our lobsterman comes in at specific times each day, so regular customers can come and check his catch) or to wholesalers who then sell to restaurants, stores, or retail lobster outlets. Many of the wholesalers have retail outlets up and down the coast as well. The tricky part is that lobsters need to be kept alive till they are prepared. This is why lobster is expensive to buy in a restaurant or retail outlet. There is a considerable margin between buying live lobsters direct off the boat and from a retail outlet. For example, live lobsters off the boat were going for $6.00 per pound and lobster meat in the retail outlets was going for $39.99 per pound. Live lobsters at the Maine retail outlet are $15.00-25.00 per lobster. Most of the retail outlets here in Maine have live lobsters and lobster meat that has been already taken from the shell (pulled) available.

We were able to select three lobsters out of the holding cooler to bring home for our dinner. Hope steamed them perfectly, and boy were they awesome. We literally had the ocean to table experience – first hand!

As you can see, lobstering is quite the industry. We were so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend the day serving as apprentices to the business. We learned so much more by actually being immersed (no pun intended) in the business. It is so important that we find ways for our students to have these kinds of experiences. Whether through true apprenticeship programs, or through internships, or through one day field trip type experiences like we had. Experiential and hands-on learning is so much more meaningful than any other way we can learn.

Independence Day Leadership Lessons From Maine & Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

On this 2018 Fourth Of July morning I am reminded of the great leadership that has been necessary for the United States to become the great country it is. My family and I are vacationing in Maine right now so, of course, I had to do some studying of influential leaders from Maine. Boy did I come across a great one: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Now I know that Independence Day is observed to honor our Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of Great Britain and those who provided the leadership during this important time of our country’s founding, but since I am in Maine I am going to honor and remember Chamberlain too.

Raised from a modest life in the small town of Brewer Maine, Joshua Chamberlain chose the professions of ministry and academia filling in the post of Professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College during the tumultuous 1850s. As the Civil War broke out, Chamberlain felt the impulse to serve based on his belief in preserving the union and his moral conviction against the institution of slavery. In early 1862, Chamberlain expressed his desire to serve to the Governor of Maine, who offered him the rank of Colonel in the Maine volunteers. He turned that rank down because he did not believe he had the experience necessary for the rank. This is lesson one learned from him – be modest and know what skill level you have and what you still have to learn. Believing he needed to gain experience and knowledge of the military profession, Chamberlain’s uncommon act of humility set a tone for the remainder of his service.

But the cause for which we fought was higher; our thought wider… That thought was our power. ~ Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain went on to have a very successful military career and ended that career as a Brigadier General, but two Civil War stories are worth telling in this blog post. Here they are:

Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, Little Round Top

Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, who he now commanded, ordered the 20th Maine Regiment to execute a daring counterattack against the 15th Alabama Regiment of the Confederate Army on July 2nd 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg. At the extreme left flank of the Union Army, the 20th Maine fought off repeated assaults for the past several hours against the determined Confederate Soldiers. Even though the 20th regiment was outnumbered and low on ammunition, Chamberlain’s bold decision and courageous leadership led his men of Maine down the slopes of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and stopped the Confederate assault against the Union Army’s left flank. He showed tremendous insight and leadership in making this bold move. Colonel Chamberlain was inspirational to his men and as a leader, a true influencer.

Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, April, 1865

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain taught us what it meant to be a man of character and compassion when he was personally asked by General Ulysses S. Grant to preside at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse over the surrender detail. It was not the fact that he presided that is noteworthy here, it is the awesome act and example of leadership he performed. As the 20,000 Confederate Soldiers paraded by to turn over their arms and battle flags, Chamberlain gave the Union Army detail the command of “carry arms” to salute Confederate’s service and gallantry in battle. Many, then and now, credit this leadership gesture as the beginning for the country’s healing process toward reconciliation.

This act took courage and would bring him accolades and plagued him politically for the rest of his life. The southerners deeply respected him for this show of compassion and respect. Conversely, however, many northerners, including those in his home state of Maine, did not see it that way. They wanted to continue the humiliation of the Confederacy. Chamberlain did what was right and faced the consequences.

Congressional Medal of Honor

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was awarded the Medal Of Honor for his service At Gettysburg. He saw combat at Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Five Forks, and the Appomattox Campaign.

Chamberlain Leadership Lessons

Chamberlain always positioned himself in the middle of his brigade’s formation. He led shoulder to shoulder with his men. This built trust and gave him the ability to truly know what was going on. Chamberlain reassured his soldiers through his cool and calm presence during the heat of combat. He garnered the trust of his men through his actions in combat. The other thing that really impressed me as I studied this hero was his commitment to studying his new military profession, and his commitment to developing his subordinates. We need to pay attention to these lesson learned and apply them to our daily lives as leaders.

Learn More About Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

There are so many more leadership lessons to learn about this great man that went on to be President of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and four term (one year terms at that time in Maine). Let me suggest two ways that I did to learn more:

  1. Visit Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and visit the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Museum. It is awesome! I learned a great deal from the tour and curators there. The museum is the restored home (the only home he and his wife, Fanny, ever owned). There is family history, Civil War history, history of his time as Bowdoin College President, and history of his Governorship. It is awesome!
  2. Read the great book by Alice Rains Trulock, In The Hands Of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain & The Civil War. This book is awesome and I gave it five stars. Is a very well written well told story of this great leader. This book inspired me to dig deeper and explore more to understand how this man became the great leader he did, at a crucial time in our nation’s history.

I am thankful on this Independence Day, 2018 for Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. What leaders are you thankful for on this day of celebration of our great country, The United States Of America?

What’s Your Elevated Story?

One of the most common questions we get when meeting new people is, “So, what do you do?” Most of us have a standard answer about our profession, but there are some people who have jobs that you might not even know existed. More importantly, everyone’s job is important and in some way improves the lives of others. Think about every job that affects your household; there are a lot.

Perkins Cove

I was reminded of this yesterday when in Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine. This is a lobstering port and a beautiful place with shops and restaurants. While exploring we came across a boat named the SS Crusher that had been dry docked (see picture). It was a cool looking boat and I wondered what was up with it. Then, I found that a children’s book, The Pride Of Perkins Cove, had been written about it by Brenda Yorke Goodale about the boat.

So, of course I had to dig deeper and found that the boat and it’s harbormaster have very important jobs. When it gets cold, and it gets cold in Maine; Perkins Cove freezes. Because the Cove is a working port, it has to stay open, so Harbormaster Fred Mayo spends hours every day breaking the ice. The town’s special boat, the SS Crusher, is built for the task of “crushing” through the ice. Before yesterday I did not even know what a lobstering port looked liked, let alone that freezing was a problem.

If we asked Fred Mayo what he does, he might give the same kind of answer we all would: “I’m a harbormaster.” But, wow, is it so much more. In fact, here, according to Wikipedia, is truly the world of a harbormaster: “A harbormaster is an official responsible for enforcing the regulations of a particular harbor or port, in order to ensure the safety of navigation, the security of the harbor and the correct operation of the port facilities.” Think about all the other colorful details that a harbormaster like Fred Mayo could add. I’ll bet there are some great stories of ice crushing in Perkins Cove. Here are a couple of pictures of Fred Mayo and the SS Crusher doing their job:

A few weeks ago I read a great book by Shawn Achor entitled Big Potential: How Transforming The Pursuit Of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being. In the book, Achor points out that we usually just give a very quit and boring answer of what we do for our job. He argued, however, that we need to quit this and give what he calls the “elevated speech;” not to be mistaken with the elevator speech. The “elevated speech” should be us telling what we really do and why what we do is so important. The example I like to give here is the answer that we hear so many times from teachers: “Oh, I’m just a teacher.” I’ll admit I’m guilty of having done this. But, are you kidding me, “just a teacher?” I think not! Actually, I hope not!

Let’s take a look at teaching as a very significant profession, or “job.” Here is my elevated version: “Teachers have been given a great gift – the power to change lives, each day I must be inspirational. I am a significant human being helping other human beings to realize their full potential and go on and make a positive difference in their world.” What do you think?

Achor posited that our beliefs create our world. He argued that if we elevate the story of what we do, we will get a new spring in our step and renewed inspiration for what we do each day. He’s right because Gallup (2017) told us that 60% of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them. Here’s the challenge, though, in 2016, only 33% of U.S. employees were

engaged – involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace (Gallup, 2017). This translates to only 4 in 10 U.S. employees strongly agreeing that in the last year, they have had opportunities to learn and grow (Gallup,2017). This is a huge engagement issue. Gallup (2017) results suggested that by moving that ratio to eight in 10 employees, organizations could realize 44% less absenteeism, 41% fewer safety incidents, 24% higher retention, and 16% higher productivity. I guess it is time to elevate those we serve.

Just like the story of the SS Crusher, we all have unique gifts, jobs to do, and make a significant difference in the world. Let’s get engaged and elevated! What’s your elevated story?

Reference

Gallup (2017). State of the American Workplace. Gallup, Inc. Washington D.C

What Can We Create Together?

Every year, the Ernest family takes the first week of July as an opportunity to get away and spend time together. We have found this to be a great week because it is moratorium week for Indiana High School athletics; in other words, Heath (my son) does not have football 🏈 practice all week. Another thing I love is that when we travel we get to celebrate the Fourth of July in different places around the country. And…with the holiday, many others are off work too, and it seems the draw to do work related things is less.

View from my camper door in York, Maine. Breathtaking!

This year, we are spending our week working out of York, Maine. This trip is giving us the opportunity to pick up visiting in four states (Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont) that he had not been to yet in his quest to get all 50 before he graduates from high school. He will just have Alaska, Utah, Idaho, and New Mexico left after this trip. Not bad for a 17 year old. Yesterday, as we were setting up our camper, my son and I noticed a neighboring camper flying the American flag 🇺🇸 and The Gadsden (“Don’t Tread On Me Flag”). Heath and I had a discussion about the flag, Christopher Gadsden (who designed the flag), what it meant during the American Revolution, and what it means to us now. Please don’t go down the route of thinking I am on some anti-government weird movement. I’m just reflecting on our past,studying history, and what it means to our future.

“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” ~ President Harry S. Truman

The Gadsden Flag

Many people during revolutionary war times thought the rattlesnake was a good example of America’s virtues. They argued that it is unique to America; individually its rattles produce no sound, but united they can be heard by all; and while it does not attack unless provoked, it is deadly to step upon one. I have to think 🤔 this was how our forefathers were thinking. Even though we later had some expansionist behaviors as we put the whole United States project together, there continued to be to mentality we would not go beyond our geographic boarders.

Colonel Christopher Gadsden

He was from South Carolina and really liked a yellow banner he had seen with a coiled rattle snake drawn on it, and the rest is history, so to speak. Gadsden made a copy of this flag and submitted the design to the Provincial Congress in South Carolina.

During The American Revolution

At the time of the American Revolutionary we were in a time period where intense, but controlled individualism was the dominating disposition of most people. Remember, most of the colonists had come here to escape some type of oppression. An important fact, by the way, I believe we need to remember today! This was a time when self-directing responsible individuals again and again decided for themselves what they should do, and did it without needing anyone else to give them an assignment or supervise them in carrying it out.

Does The Gadsden Flag Have Meaning Today?

YES! I want to just stop there, because I believe we must make that meaning for ourselves, using our founding fathers as the guides. It reminds me, we need to be mindful of the idea of government overreach. For me this means on a local and state level, as well as at the federal level.

And…as we know, this is not an easy thing to balance. What I see as support, you may see as overreach, and visa versus. Or, I’m reminded of pre Civil War times when decisions were made pointing to states rights, which I believe very deeply in, but states rights were being used as a political shield to not doing the right thing – abolishing slavery once and for all for the whole country. I believe this conundrum itself is part of the genius our democratic design. It allows us to debate and have discourse about how to proceed. My only wish on this week of celebrating the independence of our great country is that we take more of a stance of civilized discourse and come together as a nation of communities to develop great solutions to our challenges. What can we create together?