Al Campbell, Field Editor

December 9th, 2002

Exclusive Membership
By Al Campbell

A recent string of comments on the bulletin board concerning the subject of fly tying certification bothered me a bit. It seems a father and son team has decided to start a fly tying certification organization to test and certify fly tiers in their form of art. Considering the involvement both of them have in the Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) casting instructor certification program, I can guess the nature of their new process.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against certificates of achievement. If you think about it, every time you visit the doctor's office you see one of those certificates on his wall telling the world that he has studied and passed the requirements to practice medicine. I don't suppose I would doubt his qualifications if I didn't see that certificate, but I'm sure he's proud of that accomplishment.

While I don't always appreciate certificates, especially from the self serving or self appointed, I do believe many of them recognize specific accomplishments or achievements that one can be proud of. For instance, I don't agree with the way the FFF conducts their casting instructor certification program, but I also respect the accomplishments of many who have passed that certification course. If it was easy, I suppose more people would have those certificates.

On the other hand, I oppose the attempts of some who have tried to force their services on me and others because they have a certificate of some kind. If their service was so valuable, I think they would be asked to provide it without any hard selling on their part. Some people's services are that valuable and some aren't. I think the guys who try to force the issue are probably the ones that offer the least valuable service. On the other hand, some people offer services so valuable, they are in constant demand.

Getting back to my point, I also have some certificates on my walls. Their value is probably only known to me, and I suppose it's better that way. Why would you care what certificates I have on my wall? Nothing about them had anything to do with you anyway. However, they are something I'm proud of and that's why I have them on the wall.

If you walk into my basement you'll see dozens of deer and elk antlers on the walls. They are certificates of my skills as a hunter. I had to earn each and every one of them. Do they have an impact on you? Nope, but they tell anyone who enters that I have worked on my hunting skills to the point that I have true skills in that area. They mean something to me, but I doubt they could ever mean anything to anyone else.

I have about a dozen certificates of accomplishment in various areas of several occupations I have had, including my current occupation. They tell anyone willing to read them that I worked hard and showed considerable skills in those areas of my job. They say that I excelled above the average guy. Do I think you should care? No. Why should any of that matter to you?

On another wall I have several dozen certificates I'm particularly proud of. They are the certificates and letters of appreciation I have received from various youth and community service organizations I have helped with my time and talents. They indicate my willing service to their needs and goals. They show I care about our youth and needy. They matter to me and the groups that gave them to me, but they are worth nothing more than that. They won't even buy a cup of coffee.

Scattered throughout my basement I have framed photos I have taken. They are the best samples I have of that type of accomplishment. Scattered with them are framed pages of articles I have had in magazines like Outdoor Life and Fly Tyer magazine. They point out some work and some talent. They won't buy a cup of coffee either.

There is one certificate I'm especially proud of. It sits on a shelf housed in a triangular frame with a plaque under it. More than the Meritorious Service Medals and other achievement type medals I received while in the armed forces, this one means a lot to me. It embraces my total belief and commitment to a type of service many others performed with me. In a way it is the spirit or soul of a time in my life. In my lifetime, I have accomplished nothing greater than the accomplishment this certificate signifies. It is a folded flag of the United States of America. It was flown over the United States Capitol building then secured by a former South Dakota senator to be presented to me at the time of my retirement from the United States Air Force.

That certificate tells all who would look at it, that I have served this country in the armed forces for 20 years of my life. It says I placed the needs of my country above my own life for the sake of freedom and national security. It is an enduring symbol of those who served before me and those who continue to serve after me. A link in a chain that hasn't been broken, I share its honor with all others who have served in the same fashion.

With that in mind, I suppose I don't share the enthusiasm of some others when a family announces that they have started a new certification program. I see through the core to the money on the other side and wonder what their true motive is. Is it honorable, or just another way for two individuals to make some money? I'll let you decide that question for yourself. I already know which certificate I treasure the most. I'm a member of an exclusive club that many others who will read this share; but it's a membership that can't be bought with anything other than service to others. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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