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Sharing My Gratitude

James R. Thornton, CSP, CIH, FASSP, FAIHA, 2023-24 ASSP President and ASSP Foundation Chair
Dec 03, 2023

Jim ThorntonWe start many board meetings by sharing our gratitude for another person present at the meeting. We share our specific experience working with that individual and what has stood out or had a powerful impact. This exercise sets the stage for how we listen and interact during the meeting, and it helps us remain mindful during difficult discussions.

As we close out 2023, I want to take the opportunity to share with you some moments of reflection and gratitude about how much I value those who have supported me throughout my career; express why I find this profession so rewarding; and highlight why I find my involvement in ASSP so fulfilling and my interactions with ASSP colleagues so uplifting.

When I think about those who have helped me become who I am and reflect on what those individuals gave me, I recognize that I have learned from each encounter, whether good or bad. While I could speak of many influences in my life, who I am today began with my parents. I was born and raised in a small town in Alabama. My parents taught me to value education and honesty, and to treat others as I want to be treated. Those lessons have guided me throughout my life.

I also want to acknowledge David Trayer for his influence early in my career. He was my supervisor when I was hired as an OSH technician with the Tennessee Valley Authority. As a new college graduate, I knew little about workplace safety and health. But David was kind, humble and intelligent. He took me under his wing, got me hooked on safety and health, and encouraged me to attend graduate school.

As a meticulous scientist, he insisted on accuracy and thoroughness, expectations that I have maintained throughout my career. I am forever grateful that our paths crossed because I would not have otherwise enjoyed the professional or personal successes I have achieved. I owe him much.

When I think about our great profession, I am struck by what a truly rewarding career this is. Our actions and counsel help workers return home safe, healthy and well to their families each day. To put that in some context, healthcare professionals diagnose and treat existing conditions, diseases and injuries, which is an incredible service. But our goal is to ensure that the jobs people perform each day and the settings in which they perform them do not cause those conditions, diseases or injuries. We should all take pride in knowing that we continue to make a difference, especially when our work helps prevent these types of harmful outcomes for others.

I also know that both my professional and personal development have been significantly enriched because of my ASSP involvement. I have been fortunate to meet and befriend a host of people who deeply care about others and are willing to demonstrate and express that compassion each day. These colleagues are also truly committed to our profession and our Society.

We all can be proud to be part of the community dedicated to protecting people, property and the environment. I know I am honored to stand with you as guardians of workplace safety. Together we are pursuing the vision that safety, health and well-being are inherent rights of all workers. I am committed to work with our community to achieve this goal by continuously seeking new ways to improve our practice, strengthen our preparation, and develop our ability to provide expert counsel on controlling work-related risks. Being part of ASSP makes us all better OSH professionals because it helps us continuously learn and grow while helping others. ASSP has given me so much. As a student of aerospace engineering, I wanted to help us get to the moon. While that did not work out, I feel like I made it after all thanks to ASSP and my connections within this professional community.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” That has absolutely been my experience, and it is due largely to being part of a profession and an organization that truly make a difference in the lives of others. It is through these experiences that we enrich our lives, surpass our goals and become better people. I am confident we will achieve more in 2024.

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