ROTARY VOCATIONAL AWARD Speech                                                          November 30, 2022
Good Evening.  Thank you all so very much.  I am very happy to be with you tonight and truly humbled by your selection.    I was actually distressed when Shirley Burke told me that I was selected as Rotary’s Vocation recipient.    Not mad at Shirley nor the selection, but because I do not like to be recognized - Nor do I like giving speeches.  But I am gonna give it a go here. 
When told I would have 10 to 15 minutes to speak about myself and my vocation at this ceremony, I cringed.   I envisioned boring everyone to death telling firefighter and musician stories.   But as I pondered, I got an idea.  I broke this whole evening down into what any good historian, scholar or problem-solver would do, I researched Rotarians and learned Rotary encourages and fosters the idea of service through high ethical standards and the concept of vocational service.  Therefore, I’ll speak about ethics, leadership and how it relates to my life. 
Ethics come from the Greek word ethos, meaning character.  Character is not necessarily defined by how a person behaves when life is good but, often defined by decisions made under pressure and when no one is looking, when the road contains land mines, and when the way is obscured and often controversial. 
I never really thought of myself as having “good” ethics.  I guess I do.   But what I did realize is that I maintain passion and conviction for what I do.  I began to understand that I would fail – everyone does.  I learned failure was a teacher and through failure, I had the responsibility to better myself in a manner that reflects proper ethical behavior and integrity.  By doing this, I can help foster a continuing positive public perception of myself and the service I represent.    
Right vs. Wrong. Good vs. Evil.  All of us have opportunities to choose between right and wrong every day.    We see in the business world and politics, getting it wrong can lead to serious consequences, including corporate failure, loss of reputation, fines or even jail sentences.   I was influenced by music at a very young age and took music lessons.       When I was in high school I joined the marching band.   Playing music made me feel good because it made others feel good.  I learned it had a direct result in how others felt and the band made me understand how important it was for me to be disciplined, respectful and accountable in my performance.  We all relied heavily upon each other.  So then came firefighting.  I enrolled as a volunteer firefighter at the age of 18.  I went through the fire academy and became a volunteer firefighter because I liked the feeling I got when I was able to help people.  Relating it to music, my actions of helping someone made them feel better.  And it made me feel good too.  It became, and still is addicting.  Now, if anyone knows a fireman, you know how they can be.  I say this tongue and cheek, because while they can be some of the most opinionated, loud-mouthed, overbearing, type-A personality individuals, they have an unbelievable passion and determination.  These individuals adhere to a code of ethics founded on mutual respect and trust between firefighters and the citizens they serve and they continue the integrity of the fire service.  They live by it and cherish it.  Those beliefs captivated me to this service.  
As a Department Director, I oversee 4 divisions and over 200 personnel.  That’s 200+ personalities.  It’s a constant heartache….. Similar to being a Philadelphia sports fan.   There’s always something to complain about.  But, the reason it’s heartache is because we all have passion and determination.  We don’t give up or give in – even when we think we should.  They know I am trustworthy, appreciate my fairness, openness and they can rely on me.   And in turn, I know they do the best job they can to save the City and uphold the traditions of the fire service as they may lay down their life, for me and the organization.  That is a huge external stressor.   Therefore I consistently reiterate my values, so they will have trust in me and the ability to succeed.  That has nothing to do with rank, seniority or intelligence.  I have to encourage and inspire these individuals who share values and beliefs similar to my vision.  
In life, not many people can tell you why they do what they do.  Their purpose?  Their cause/belief?  Everyone knows “what” they do.  Some of those people know “How” they do it and it’s what they believe that sets them apart from the competition, but very few people can tell you “WHY” they do what they do.  I am not talking about for money or a paycheck – that is a result.  I am talking about their purpose/cause and belief.  Why does the organization need to exist?  Study your own situation, do you really need another company to do exactly what your company does????  Why did you get out of bed in the morning????   We do this for the greater good of humankind.   I choose to inspire – Inspire others to rally to make our world a better place, believing I can leave this earth better than I found it if I inspire others.  We will fight for you because it is the right thing to do.   This is where individuals will follow you not because they have to, but because they want to. 
For me to succeed, 
  • I have to know why I do what I do.    (if I don’t know, no one else will)
  • I have to have discipline of how.  I have to hold me and my people accountable to my own guiding principles and values.
  • And, I must have consistency in that everything I say and do proves what I believe. 
This drives my ethics and behavior.  It’s the same for a computer company called APPLE.
Hear is a great example I heard.  Most people think from the outside in and it’s difficult to uncover someone’s WHY:  What-How, then Why.  Using an outside in approach for APPLE would sound like this - “we make great computers – they’re beautifully designed, easy to operate and user friendly, want to buy one.” Sounds like every sales pitch I’ve ever heard.  It describes, What, then How, and then Why.
But, using an Inside out approach - here’s how APPLE actually communicates – “in everything we do, we believe we in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently.  The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.  We just happen to make great computers – want to buy one?”  It feels different.  The only difference between the 2 is that APPLE reverses the order so it’s not WHAT you do but WHY you do it that matters.  We are comfortable with APPLE selling computers but we are also comfortable with them selling MP3 players, phones, DVRs, movies, etc… There are many different computer companies that have tried by advertising WHAT they do but what set Apple apart is WHY they exist (to challenge the status quo.  Give an opportunity to stand up to Big Brother and choose an alternative).  DELL makes perfectly good computers and they tried to sell MP3 player and it was a dismal failure. Why?  We buy MP3 players from the APPLE computer company, why wouldn’t do the same for DELL?  Because it’s not what you buy, it’s WHY you do it.  
The reason we as a people survive is not because we are the strongest, but b/c we are social animals.  We build communities and cultures (a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs).  We surround ourselves with those who believe what we believe and as a result, trust emerges.  Our ability to survive is to seek out those who we can form trust.  When this happens, we are more willing.  We more likely to take risk and experiment (which also requires failure by the way).  We gain confidence and know if we make a mistake, that someone from within our community will come to our aid or help us.  That’s the Fire Service in a nutshell.  TRUST in all capital letters.  Absent trust, it’s every man for himself.  In my current position, I continuously strive to nurture trust within my organization so my team will want to follow my vision.  I must be able to stand on my soapbox and state what i believe, and somehow people are eerily drawn to me, my beliefs and what I hold true to myself.
I’ll give an example - Imagine we’re on a 3 hour tour on a boat.  We become deserted on an island…we’ll call it Gilligan’s Island.  We are stranded.  Let’s say the Captain of the boat stands up and say I’m going to be the leader. (ok – we appreciate leadership, social animals right?).  The Skipper says, who’s got ideas?  A woman named MaryAnn says we should build a fire.  A man named Gilligan says we should look for food.  A Professor declares we should build a boat.  Ok the Skipper says let’s take a vote.  However, I stand up and say, coming to shore I saw some masts on the other side of the island along with some smoke, which means there’s a fishing village over there. And if we can get to that fishing village, we can find help.  Now we are gonna have to go through this forest and it’s not going to be easy, I don’t know how to do that and I am going to need some help. But If you want to help, I’ll welcome it and if you don’t want to help, that’s alright too because when we get help, we’ll come back and get you.  Who do you want to follow? 
Don’t get me wrong, there are times in the fire service where the dictatorship style of leadership is needed for some emergent situations, but aside from that 5% of the time, we want to follow the latter example.  But there’s no data to show a fishing village exists.  It’s not on a map and no one else saw it. The only thing we have is my conviction and belief in the existence of that world that we cannot see and my ability to put that future state into words is what we’re drawn to.  They will volunteer to go with me and maybe even take personal risk.  I don’t know how to cut down trees but I will go because I believe it is important – not for me but for the greater good of the group.  Our own survival depends on the ability to help each other.  What if we travel, cut down trees, swim through a river, get to the other side, and there’s no fishing village?  Did I lie to us?  Was it a joke? Everyone asks, “where’s the village?  You said it would be here”.   I turn and say, Yes I believed there was a fishing village here but that doesn’t matter now, because look what we were able to accomplish.  We can pick out any point on this island and get there…..that’s called leadership.   Everyday, I embark on a new “3 hour tour.”  It becomes personal for all of us. 
The Fire Service uses a symbol of a Maltese Cross which stems from the early days of the Crusades and the Knights of St. John but it’s much more than just a symbol.  It resembles, our beliefs, values, our extraordinary ethics and is a badge of honor.  Those associated with it must have high integrity, trust, honesty, and courage.  This is why symbols mean so much to us.  Returning to my APPLE example, think of Macintosh computer owners. This is why they love to flaunt and open their computers in public. They want us to see the computer they are using because it’s a belief – not a product.  Factually and data speaking, Macs are substandard computers.  (please don’t fight me…ill explain).  They’re at least 25% more expensive, there is less software, fewer peripherals, and I actually know because I have a Mac they are absolutely slower.  Rational speaking – no one should ever buy one. But people buy them, over and over and over again. Why?  Have you ever asked someone why they love their Mac?  They don’t say, “well you see, I see myself who believes in challenging the status quo therefore it’s important to me to surround myself with all the products and people to prove to the outside world who I am because I am using these things as a symbol and icon to tell people who I am in an attempt to attract like-minded people who believe the same as me so I can begin to form bonds and trust with them because my existence depends on it.” They don’t say that – but biologically, that’s what happens.  This is why Mac users will never cover up that glowing APPLE – ever.  Have you ever seen a dirty Macintosh?  How many PC owners breakout the cleaning products to clean their Toshiba?  Why? They have to keep the Apple clean because it’s a symbol of who they are.  If you tell them they bought a substandard computer – they’ll likely foam at the mouth.  The reason they take it so personally is you didn’t insult their computer – you insulted them - their beliefs.  Because Apple is so clear in what they believe, and so disciplined how they do it and so consistent in what they do, that symbol now serves as a representation of who I believe I am.  The MALTESE CROSS – is a symbol and representation of what I am.  If you attack the symbol, it’s the same as attacking me.  Same as the American flag.  A symbol.   Where do you think the Mafia comes from?   You killed my cousin, now I’m going to have to kill your whole family.  You didn’t do anything to me.  We are protective of those within our circles who share the same beliefs.  We are protective of those who believe what we believe.  Great organizations are communities and cultures with common sets of values and beliefs who will go to bat for each other, work for each other and help each other, even at GREAT personal sacrifice.  Because, ironically, my own personal survival depends on it.  Why do we hail APPLE as the best company ever?  By the way, Steve Jobs came up with ZERO of the products APPLE sells.  What Jobs was able to do, was to put into words, why they were coming to work.  It gave people something to build.  Give them a yearning and “they” will solve the problem.  Before APPLE, Steve Jobs and Wozniak in Cupertino CA started creating a blue box that would eliminate people from paying long distance rates on their phone bills – they challenged Ma-bel.  Then they started Apple, and challenged IBM.  And then they challenged Microsoft; and then they challenged the music industry, and then they challenged the mobile phone industry; now they are challenging publishing and movies are next.  It’s a repeating remarkable pattern.  It’s one individual with a cause challenging the status quo.  
When people believe what you believe, they will work for you. When there is stress, the organization comes together to solve the problem:  Put their blood sweat and tears into it.  And when they don’t believe in you, they work for their paycheck. 
In my understudies, I studied Civil Rights and I was an avid reader of Dr. King and many of his speeches.  In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people converged on the Mall in Washington D.C. to hear Martin Luther King give his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.  We all know it in some fashion.  There were no invitations sent out, and there was no website to check the date/time. How do you accomplish that?  Dr. King was not the only man in the ‘60’s that new what had to change.  He wasn’t the only great orator. He wasn’t the only man who suffered in a pre-civil rights America.  In fact, he wasn’t even the perfect man.  He had his complexities however we don’t speak of them.  The difference is, he didn’t go around telling people what we needed to do…..he went around and told people what he believed.  I believe I believe.  And people who believed took Dr. King’s cause and made it their own.  Then those people took what THEY believed, and made the cause their own, and it snowballed.  And low and behold, on the right day on the right time, a quarter million people bestowed in D.C. to hear Dr. King speak.  How many showed up for Dr. King?  Zero.  They showed up for themselves. It’s what “they” believed about America.  It inspired them so much as to get on a bus and travel 8 hours and stand in the hot August sun simply to hear him speak.  Showing up is what they did to show them they believed.  By the way - Dr. King gave an I have a DREAM speech, not the I have a PLAN Speech.  Nobody was inspired by any plan -  ever.  
The goal is not to talk about what you do, it’s to talk about what you believe.  And those that believe what I believe are hopefully drawn to me because I help them put into words how they see themselves.  Real trust. Real loyalty – born out of ethics that began from young musician wanting to make people feel good.   I believe by holding human life as our most precious commodity and by inspiring others, I will gain trust, loyalty with those who have similar ethics and will continue to rise to the occasion because it is what is right and just.  Dr. King summed up ethics ever so eloquently and its relative tonight when he said,  “the time is always right, to do what is right.”
I would like to thank Ms. Shirley Burke as, but for the nomination, I wouldn’t be here tonight.  I thank Rotary for this beautiful award – I will cherish it.  And thank you for listening.  I hope my speech inspired and motivated you to a type of call to duty, within yourself, your relationships, your family, or your vocation.