Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Professionalism

For safekeeping I am posting this inspirational definition of professionalism taken from a commencement speech entitled "Heroism in War and Peace" delivered by Elbert Parr Tuttle in 1957, at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.

Learn about Judge Tuttle at the New Georgia Encyclopedia, or from the History of the Court of Appeals, or Life at the Bar, or Jack Bass's book, Unlikely Heroes.


The professional man is in essence one who provides service. But the service he
renders is something more than that of the laborer, even the skilled laborer. It
is a service that wells up from the entire complex of his personality. True,
some specialized and highly developed techniques may be included, but their mode
of expression is given its deepest meaning by the personality of the
practitioner. In a very real sense his professional service cannot be separate
from his personal being. He has no goods to sell, no land to till. His only
asset is himself. It turns out that there is no right price for service, for
what is a share of a man worth? If he does not contain the quality of integrity,
he is worthless. If he does, he is priceless. The value is either nothing or it
is infinite.So do not try to set a price on yourselves. Do not measure out your
professional services on an apothecaries’ scale and say, “Only this for so
much.” Do not debase yourselves by equating your souls to what they will bring
in the market. Do not be a miser, hoarding your talents and abilities and
knowledge, either among yourselves or in your dealings with your clients . .
.Rather be reckless and spendthrift, pouring out your talent to all to whom it
can be of service! Throw it away, waste it, and in the spending it will be
increased. Do not keep a watchful eye lest you slip, and give away a little bit
of what you might have sold. Do not censor your thoughts to gain a wide
audience. Like love, talent is only useful in its expenditure, and it is never
exhausted. Certain it is that man must eat; so set what price you must on your
service. But never confuse the performance, which is great, with the
compensation, be it money, power, or fame, which is trivial.. . . The job is
there, you will see it, and your strength is such, as you graduate . . . that
you need not consider what the task will cost you. It is not enough that you do
your duty. The richness of life lies in the performance which is above and
beyond the call of duty.


Now I can read and re-read these fine words and be encouraged that anyone can be a professional.

Everyone should be.

It's a virtue.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this quote and linking to it, Dana! I love it. :)

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  2. Clipped from a Steve Masty comment at ImaginativeConservative.org in October 2010

    A lady friend recently wrote that she was working in Scotland to improve the 'profession of salesmen.' I asked if salesmen constitute a profession, then what in the world is a trade? And if trades and professions are the same thing then we have just lost two good words. Wikipedia, that vast repository of supposed knowledge, reports:

    "A profession is a vocation founded upon specialised educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain. Classically, there were only three professions: Divinity, Medicine, and Law. The main milestones which mark an occupation being identified as a profession are:

    It became a full-time occupation;
    The first training school was established;
    The first university school was established;
    The first local association was established;
    The first national association was established;
    The codes of professional ethics were introduced;
    State licensing laws were established.
    The ranking of established professions in the United States based on the above milestones shows Surveying first (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln were all land surveyors before entering politics), followed by Medicine, actuarial science, Law, Dentistry, Civil Engineering, Logistics, Architecture and Accounting. With the rise of technology and occupational specialization in the 19th century, other bodies began to claim professional status: Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine, Nursing, Teaching, Librarianship, Optometry and Social Work, all of which could claim, using these milestones, to be professions by 1900."

    As a communication advisor, I would not call my occupation a profession even though I try to impart some professionalism in my work.

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