“Firefighters, both paid and volunteer, provide for us the definition of a successful life. Which, to my mind, lies in serving others. We are measured in this life by how we treat others. And our firefighters have been this nation’s neighbor since 1736. They are the backbone of America Herself.

“The federal government feels that the fire service network deserves a valued place in the community. I think of Yellowstone National Park, stories of building collapse, cave-ins, and other disasters, and yes, even parades in our communities. You should have America’s and this government’s respect. In this administration you have it!”

You smile. .. You’ve heard this before?

Perhaps, you think, they are the words of a local candidate seeking the “only once valued” fire service vote. Well you couldn’t be further from the truth.

These words boomed, seemingly unrehearsed and certainly unread, from the smiling face of President George Bush. They proved to be the central focus of Representative Curt Weldon’s Congressional Fire Services Institute’s first annual dinner in Washington, D.C.

Weldon continues to astonish the American government and its protectors—us. He seems inspired with the spirit found in the new “proby” and in the legendary veteran who’s looked to by the entire department for his enthusiasm, expertise, and informal leadership.

That night there followed a steady parade of senators and representatives to the rostrum, each enthusiastically sharing encouraging, upbeat thoughts from the heart with the more than 2,000 attendees from “our job.”

It was one helluva night for me and for those in attendance that I could see, and it’s the unanimous opinion of all asked to date.

In the words of Congressman Doug Walgren, “There’s a new breeze in Washington—it’s the spirit of Weldon. It’s infused with the spirit and magic of the fire service.”

The sleeping giant awoke that night and it awoke with a roar in the largest ballroom in Washington, D C. That sleeping giant is YOU! Stand up! Be proud! Get involved! Be heard!

I’ve never been one to get caught up in government pep rallies—and have maintained that record. This was not a pep rally. It was a flood of honest and very human America. I truly believe that we all spiritually held hands that night as the president of the United States of America told us (you), with tears in his eyes, “By saving human lives, you have defined a successful life!”

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