"A Century of Commitment to Research, Education and Conservation"

President's Message by Daniel C. Leete - March 2019

Do Take it Personally - A Note from the AWCF President

We often hear the sage advice that says “Oh for goodness sake, don’t take it personally.” I believe we hear this advice many times in our lives for mostly good reasons. To be clear, I generally agree with this advice. Perhaps we are the most important person in our life. After all, we listen to ourselves in our head all day long. Many people I know do take themselves too seriously. They worry about their own problems and lives and spend their days thinking about their personal world through the lens of what is happening to and for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I do the exact same thing.

Sometimes, however, I believe we do need to take things personally. The act of caring about your passions, standing up for your beliefs, finding ways to support a cause that is dear to you, attempting to leave a legacy that is vitally important; all require each of us to think and act both personally and at the same time with a hope for others. Actually it is a very good thing that humans often hold a personal belief that other like-minded people might share. When other people collaborate with us, those personal ideas, feelings, hopes and dreams usually turn into
something very powerful.

One of my most passionate personal beliefs has fueled my life for a very long time. I have an insatiable love for the natural world. As I turned 70 this year I realized how fortunate I was to have my personal job align with my passions. My life work became a vocation for me. My wife always reminds me how lucky I am to be involved in day-to-day pursuits that keep me feeling enlivened, creative and mostly very glad to be alive.

Now here comes my pitch. Do you also have a great love and passion for our natural word? Perhaps you are an avid birder, hunter or hiker. Do you love to farm, grow gardens or study plants? You might have spent years studying rocks, worms or dinosaurs. You might be deeply worried about species extinctions or the rights to vacation in our National Parks. Maybe you love to picnic, butcher cows, ride your bike, save the penguins or fly a kite outside in a city park. Perhaps your stream, back yard, apartment roof or field are very, very important to you.

For a moment consider what might happen if what you take for granted is no longer researched, studied, funded, loved, used, conserved, preserved or available for your use. The possibilities of losing what we love in our life time have to be considered. What could be lost in the next 60 years in terms of the natural world is almost unfathomable to me. As we spend more time in front of our technological gadgets - when watching a screen often for over half our days - it becomes easier to forget about taking care of things in the natural world that are really important to us. We tend to live in our own worlds consumed by our own drama expecting other people to support what we believe in or love most.

Please understand, I don’t say these words to guilt trip anyone. Our lives are often very busy, our personal suffering can be intense, and we live in chaotic times. Interestingly, however, people who cherish the natural world clearly understand the nurturance and soul satisfaction we can get from simply being outdoors, watching a powerful nature-documentary, sleeping in a tent, studying bees, skiing or listening to a beautiful storm. What would we do, how would we recharge, where would we chill out, how would we make a living if all of our natural resources were lost?

My words today seem counterintuitive. Sometimes, do take it personally. I ask you to please do take your passions, beliefs, values and joys personally. The American Wildlife Conservation Foundation needs your support. Join us. I will bet that you will find kindred spirits with similar passions, beliefs, values, and joys. Together, we can make a significant difference.