A Motivating Motto

Last month as I was checking my emails, I glanced at a subject line that caught my attention: “US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue to speak at Landon Lecture.” I excitedly opened that email, read the information, and quickly added the event to my calendar. This would be my 3rd time seeing Secretary Purdue present and let’s just say I was a little hopeful I might be able to take a better picture with the secretary.

But ultimately I was more excited to hear his message again. At the USDA they work by a simply motto: “Do good and feed the world.” The simplicity and value in this motto is resounding.

The first clause of the motto, “do good,” is probably the easiest for us to follow through every day. Now, doing good isn’t always about what score we get on the math test or how we place in a CDE. Doing good can look so different for each of us. On a large scale, doing good could mean organizing a food drive or helping a fellow member pay for their travel costs or official dress. To me, doing good can be found in simple tasks. This might mean asking your friends or family members if they need help or going out of your way to complete a task for someone or holding the door open before class or genuinely caring when you ask someone how their day is going. The simplicity of doing good is embodied by one of my favorite quotes from Mother Theresa,

“We can do small things with great love.”

Consider how different the world would be if everyone remembered to “do good” throughout the day. That call to change starts with us.

The second clause of this motto, “feed the world, is challenging yet incredibly practical. For some of us, this might mean commercially producing the fruit of our toil and marketing those products to the rest of the world. For others including myself, feeding the world looks a little different. Completing this call to action could mean hosting a Day on the Farm event or starting a conversation with a confused shopper at the grocery store. By making those small connections and advocating for agriculture, we open the door to better public perceptions of the work that we do. The better perceptions are essential since we cannot feed the world without the support of our consumers.

As I’ve had time to think about the USDA’s motto this week, I’ve realized that this motto has lead the department through a successful two years. There is great value in the idea of living my a personal motto to offer guidance during our days. I spent some time crafting one to represent myself, “Love freely and seize the moment.” It reminds me to be opportunistic when life presents chances for growth. It also reminds me to fully and freely love the people around me (even in times when it’s difficult to love them).

As a reader of this blog, I invite you to do the same. Spent 15 minutes pondering your values and your own call to action. Develop a short statement, no longer than a sentence, that will remind you of your purpose. And let that purpose lead us closer to doing good and feeding the world.

Love Freely,

Seize the Moment,

Live to Serve,

Michael Dowd