Much of what you read below is little more than a lightly edited reprise of past “Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future” letters I have written. If I thought I could improve upon those previous entries, rather than risk plagiarizing or caricaturizing them, I would. Some things are timeless, however, not in the perverse sense that they aren’t worth the time required to try saying something new, but in the genuine sense that not much new can or need be said about them.
Three dates stand out in the run-up to this year’s 51st CNS Annual Meeting, “Where the Next 50 Years Begins”: August 23, September 20, and October 12. What you and your colleagues make of them, how and how many of you mindfully act upon them, will determine how hollow or how meaningful that motto, “Where the Next 50 Years Begins” turns out to be.
The three dates are closely related. The officers elected when voting ends on August 23 and the awardees selected from among those nominated by September 20 will take their place in a line of succession that began with and has been carried on by those who will be remembered, and those who will be honored in-person at the October 12 Kenneth F. Swaiman Legacy Luncheon. What we are talking about, essentially, is the Jamesian sense of “effort put forth.” Let me be clear about this: every child neurologist I have known in my 35 years with the CNS is, in my mind, something of a Jamesian “hero”. And while relatively few have been nominated to run for office and only half been elected, no child neurologist caring daily for patients or probing the diseases and disorders besetting the brain could ever be accused of making no effort or be dismissed as a mere shadow.
“We measure ourselves by many standards.
Our strength and our intelligence, our wealth and even our good luck, are things which warm our
heart and make us feel ourselves a match for life.
But deeper than all such things and able to suffice unto itself without them, is the sense of the amount of effort we can put forth…S/He who can make none is but a shadow; s/he who can make much is a hero.”
Still, some do stand out for expending extra effort, as this year’s cluster of deadlines for electing new officers and nominating award recipients reminds us. It is one of the quiet glories of the Child Neurology Society that it has always openly and democratically left it to the members to decide who would be nominated to serve as its officers or be honored with one of its awards. Doing so has required some effort on the part of its members; minimal effort in the case of voting – it takes less than a minute, really – a little more effort when submitting nominations honoring career- and lifelong contributions.
At bottom, what is really being asked of each member in terms of effort is relatively simple, if not necessarily easy: it is an exercise in self-reflection and self-knowledge. In voting for officers or nominating someone for an award, each member is essentially asking themselves why they went into child neurology, why they remain so passionately committed to it, what tangible and intangible personal rewards they have reaped, what hopes they might have sown. That latter question is particularly crucial this year as those elected will determine how – and how well – the CNS grows and matures in the next 50 years. By submitting a nomination or casting your vote in the election you are putting forth the effort to honor and support those colleagues and mentors whose efforts reflect and project, embody and extend your own at this pivotal point in time where past, present and future so critically, and creatively, hang in the balance.
What is required, at bottom, is “putting forth the effort” to seriously ask yourself two questions: 1) Who has put forth the effort, who has pursued and perfected their craft, in manner that made it seem so much more than a career, raising it to the level of a calling, one I felt drawn to and driven to fulfill? 2) Who among these candidates will put forth the effort needed to help me continue on that path with the kind and level of passion, commitment and sense of fulfillment that will compel the next generation – a truly diverse generation – to put forth the effort needed to follow after me and chart new hope-filled paths in an emerging new age of daunting challenges, dazzling opportunities and dizzying uncertainties?
The on-line election portal opens July 25 and closes August 23. The awards nominaton portal will remain open until August 20. The choice is yours. The chance is yours to put forth the effort to honor the past and shape the future.