I had the distinct honor, for which I have to admit I am poorly qualified for as compared to most of you, to be the first keynoter at the International FOOLS convention in Seattle this week. It may very well be the most humbling event of my career because of the caliber of men and women which I was asked to address. I am so proud to be a member in good standing of this outstanding organization. Although many, who are un-educated about the works and purpose of the FOOLS, may not understand my feelings I ask you to please let me explain to you who the FOOLS are.
The FOOLS exist to protect defend and preserve the traditions, customs and courtesies of the Fire Service. They are founded on the principal that all firefighters must first and foremost celebrate the fragile, precarious and ever threatened sanctity of life. Some outsiders with no experience in life and death work may have been confused by the FOOLS early image as wild and irreverent partiers. Rest assured there is an element of celebration and emotional honesty which exists but no more so than in any other community which is willing to lay down their lives for their fellow man, their country and their values.
The FOOLS have correctly put life all human life as the number one priority and the protection of life as the number one mission of their organization. As a FOOL you have one responsibility; “A FOOL’s actions, attitude and deportment must always live up the tradition of those who came before us in the fire service, a FOOL will never disgrace or disrespect the heritage and honor of the fire service and always put service to others ahead of our own self interests.”
That is some mission statement, one many of us should re-read, and ask ourselves am I living up to the tradition of those who came before me? Of Ben Franklin, of Tommy Brennan, of Chief Croker, of Chief Ganci, Chief Brunacini, Jim Page, D*** Silvia, Eddie McCormack, Frank Brannigan, Don Mayo, John OHagan, John Norman, Vinny Dunn, Leo Stapleton, Emanuel Fried and the list can go on and on. Is what you are doing to do toady, right now something which will bring credit and honor to the legacy they have entrusted to you?
I have been exposed to some really great folks who feel that by behaving somber and morose that they are somehow acting adult and professional, and clearly often and most times they are. But what they fail to understand or remember and maybe it is because they have removed themselves so far from the dangers of firefighting that celebrating life and being joyous with reckless abandon has forever been the hallmark of the warrior poet class. In each of these communities there exists an organization separate and distinct from our political, organizational and labor groups which is entrusted with defending the faith.
The warrior classes find refuge in these groups they find comfort in the community to likeminded souls who love them warts and all. This week I was able to sit and talk to men and women who I admire as firefighters and leaders. I was able to sit and visit with men and women who get it and find their energies are increased by being a FOOL and are extremely active in IAFF, IAFC, Women in the Fire Service, The Black Professional Firefighters, Hispanic Firefighters. Literally every fire service group you could imagine has FOOLS inside it and many cases leading them.
It is an service organization, which as it grows and evolves has no worries for they truly live “Greater love hath no man.”Long live the FOOLS, keep the faith, always do the right thing. And remember be careful out there. Bobby