Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Professional Voluneer

In a recent speech, President Obama paid homage to the firefighters in West, Texas who lost their lives in the explosion and fire at a fertilizer plant.  In doing so, he actually insulted a large percentage of volunteer firefighters; out of ignorance, one hopes, and not purposely.   The assignment of the term “professional” to career firefighters and departments has always struck a sore spot with me.  The President’s remarks compounded this feeling.  It is good to know I’m not the only one.  The National Volunteer Fire Council sent a letter to the President on April 30th protesting these remarks. 

A simple check of the dictionary points out the fallacy of the common usage.  One of the definitions is “a person who is expert at his or her work.”  Another references “a vocation requiring knowledge of…learning or science.”  Nowhere in these admittedly selective definitions is there a mention of financial compensation. 
Professionalism isn’t about pay, it’s about attitude.  It’s about your approach to a job.  There are volunteers who join departments for all the wrong reasons and there are career personnel for whom the job is nothing but a paycheck.  However, there are many truly professional firefighters, officers, and chiefs in the volunteer ranks which should be recognized as such. 

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