I probably shouldn’t admit this, but it almost always happens to me. I get teary-eyed at cattlemen's conventions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not what most people would call the emotional type.
In fact, I really enjoy the policy side of things, even the political dynamics are kind of fun. These conventions are usually kind of sobering for me. I learn there are a lot of issues that others are dealing with that I’m not even aware of, and there always seems to be 10-20 issues that actually are threatening the survival of some very good people.
Yes, the number of issues that producers are facing is mind-numbing, but it’s not the issues or the market that usually gets to me.
Sometimes it’s some speaker who talks about the industry with a passion that just grabs me, but more times than not, it’s the retirement video and speeches of the volunteer leaders. I’m always amazed by those who give so much back to their industry, and also their loved ones who work twice as hard at home to make it possible for these volunteers to be off working for the industry.
I suppose that most people run for political office because they believe in this country and want to serve and protect it, but the pay and perks can be pretty darn good. There’s a reason that a politician retiring makes headlines; most of the time they’re either convinced they will lose the next election or they’re simply too old or too rich to want to keep going.
But, it’s a totally different story with people who serve their local, state and national cattle organizations. There’s certainly no financial remuneration. In fact, the only similarity with politicians is that some industry leaders are pretty successful when they start; generally you have to have a business that allows you to step away from it.
Most of the time a producer is wealthier before he takes a volunteer office than when he leaves, but they do it anyway. And, instead of fame, glory and power when their duty is done, these folks generally leave with a few more enemies, a little less money, and only a short rest period before the organization puts them back to work.
Anyone who isn’t a politician or a bureaucrat knows just how exciting some of these policy meetings can be. Yet, they do it because they feel so strongly about their industry that they’re honored to be called to sacrifice for it.
Maybe it’s because I’m a little more selfish, but I always get a little misty-eyed when I hear their stories. Dues-paying members allow an organization to exist, but participation is what makes it successful. Most importantly, it’s what has enabled us to compete with our opponents who have annual budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars.