Dear Next Generation: A Person of Excellence

April 13, 2021 Updated: April 13, 2021

Our home recently went through some remodeling. We have had quite a few workmen in and out of the house over the past few months. There were painters, plumbers, roofers, carpenters, carpet layers, electricians, etc. It was interesting to watch the transformation that came over our home as each of these tradesmen completed their work.

As our family inspected the improvements at the end of each job, we appreciated the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail that most of the workers displayed. It was apparent that they carefully finished their work to leave a good impression of their skills. Because of the fine reputations they establish, I am sure they enjoy continued success. And we continue to enjoy their beautiful handiwork as we live amidst the “finished product”—with one exception.

One of the groups of tradesmen has long since left our home, but the handiwork they left behind is careless, hurried, and messy. We live with it every day. Every day we admire the mark of excellence of the careful craftsmen and every day we lament the labors of those who didn’t care.

I am sure at the time, the careless workers were more concerned with what they had done the night before and what they were going to do that night. They did not worry about a little misstep here or a slight mistake there. Shortcuts in their quality were not considered. They just seemed to want to get in and out fast and get paid for the job. Well, obviously, the last group of tradesmen has left a lasting impression on me. Although they were nice people, I doubt I would recommend their work to anyone else.

This led me to consider myself. I put myself in the place of these sloppy workers and realized that there have been times in my life when I have been just like them. I have hurriedly finished (or even half-finished) a job just to be rid of it. I have not lived up to my best ability, so the impression that some people have of me is inaccurate. They will think my lackluster work was all that I was capable of doing. They will know me for a different person than I really am. It is disappointing to me that I have fallen short at times, but I have tried to be more careful as I have grown older. I know that the work I do and the image I portray leave a lasting impression on those around me.

An author named Katherine Porter said, “All our lives we are preparing to be something or someone, even if we don’t know it.”

I would ask the youth of today: “Who are you becoming? Will you be the respected craftsman or the careless worker?” It is really up to you to decide. But the world needs those who are willing to work a little harder, be a little better, and set a standard of excellence and goodness for others to follow.

I have learned it is not in one grandiose attempt that we become a craftsman, it is in our day-to-day efforts to learn and improve. For example, to achieve higher school grades, never miss a class, schedule time to study, invest special attention to assignments, and prepare for tests. When you do the daily tasks, the big end goals are accomplished. Work on the small things and great things come to pass.

Do your best in your classes, in your kindness, in your honest walk with others, in carrying out the responsibilities of your job, and in the things you enjoy—music, sports, art, science, dance, etc.

Strive to be excellent (see “The Quest for Excellence” by Gordon B. Hinckley). It will require some extra work and it will engage your mind. It will take persistence and a can-do attitude, and it will even require patience with yourself as you occasionally stumble. But, through these efforts, you will realize you have become someone—a person of quality and great worth, a craftsman to whom people will look as an example of goodness, excellence, and honor. Who do you choose to become?

Deanne Kuhni, Utah

Born in 1939, I was never taught right from wrong as a scholarly topic. I was taught it as the way to live my life by everyday examples from my middle-class parents, and I had one of each for over 50 years (mother and father).

My mother was the eldest of nine children and she was educated to the 10th grade in a tiny town in Utah, having to leave school early to help raise her siblings when her father died from the flu.

My father did not complete 6th grade, because he was forced to work for his father’s small company that built concrete bridges on roads over little creeks in the Texas county in which he was born. At 16, my father left Texas, and everything he knew, for the land of opportunity in California.

Both my parents learned, and taught me, that working for what we wanted was the surest way to reach our objectives and to treasure what we got.

Mom did menial jobs for a hat maker and she became a milliner making very decorative hats for wealthier women.

Dad learned carpentry on the job at various construction sites. He slept in fields surrounded by orange trees where he found his morning breakfast. He quickly figured out that the more he learned, the more valuable he became to future employers, and he always looked for additional things to do on the job site. Often, when a new job was available to more than one man, he was selected because the bosses knew his value.

Mom and Dad met and married in Los Angeles. Two years after I was born, my father was hired for a contract in Pearl Harbor. We got to Hawaii in time to be bombed by the Japanese! Dad was quickly hired by the Navy Civil Service to help rebuild the demolished Navy base. In spite of his lack of education, his practical knowledge and experience moved him up the ladder to supervisor.

My parents agreed on one thing about education: I would go to college! After spending five years in college with no real objective, I was drafted by the Army but quickly joined the Navy before I had to start digging foxholes in some foreign land.

The lessons I learned from my parents served me well in the Navy. Be honest, work for what I wanted, look for ways to be valuable, volunteer for things I wanted to do, make friends and be a friend. After 20 years in the Navy, I retired as a U.S. Navy chief photographer’s mate, a fantastic career as well as a life-long hobby.

For the past seven years, I have volunteered as a docent and ship’s photographer aboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.

David Harper, California


What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?

We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong, and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time, and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.

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