November 2011: Giving Thanks

By Karen Howard, Executive Director

It is entirely appropriate that my last message to you comes on the eve of Thanksgiving, a time to bow to all that is honored and express gratitude for all that is given. I owe the success of this journey to those who have held me up through the past nine years. I owe my courage and conviction to journey elsewhere to “Awakening in Ecuador,” with the love and assistance of my life coaches. Each of us has at least one journey to embark upon. Solstice in Ecuador taught me how to search for my next destination. It’s not really goodbye. I will keep you in my pocket as I move on.
The following is an excerpt from my speech at the AANP Gala:
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve you and your patients, and to have this time to work with you to change the world. I have not done this work alone. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to five Presidents. Dr. Michael Traub, you brought me into this organization sight unseen with confidence, and honored your commitment to the Association by helping me to understand the culture and history of the AANP. Dr. Nancy Dunne, teacher and friend, you gave me strength, you held me, you taught me the power of process and the importance of love in work. Dr. Jane Guiltinan, a shining example of how good begets great, together with brick and mortar we continued to build for the future. Dr. Lise Alschuler, your love, laughter, wit, passion and compassion inspired me and the membership to believe in possibility (and earwigs). And Dr. Carl Hangee-Bauer, your practical view, humor and serenity keep our feet on the ground. 
To all who have served on the Board of Directors, I thank your families, friends, patients and employers for sharing you. I thank you for your contributions.
To the State Alliance, in the word of Eckhart Tolle, “Whenever there is inspiration … and enthusiasm … there is a creative empowerment that goes far beyond what a mere person is capable of.” You exemplify excellence in your volunteer work. It is an honor to serve with you.
To the schools, all the Presidents and Deans I have worked with over these years: Wow, academia. Now that’s been interesting. I appreciate your patience and fortitude. It serves the profession well.
To the students, you are the future. You are more than bright, you are actually light pointing to a future where the world is healthier. My grandchildren will be safe in your hands.
To my detractors, you are my teachers, reminding me that oneness in this world is not all love and laughter. It is hard work, requiring attention and presence, honest reflection, and awareness of something larger than the moment at hand.
And to my staff….
Rebecca, Gene and Kelly are the engine of the convention. With grace and aplomb they enable each of us to take from the event what we need. 
Mandisa, Ashley and Matthew, you are evidence that there is brightness in our future, and I am grateful for your capable hands at the helm of this work.
Chriss, you have never really left us. Thank you for your dedication, compassion and your heart work.
Jan, I have learned so very much from you. Let us find a way to continue to laugh in the face Washington, D.C., chaos. You are my perspective. 
Gene, you are joy in its absolute. Mixed with candor, it is a beautiful expression of what you bring to the world: honest enthusiasm for life. 
David, my mentor. How does one define a friendship that is so deep it is part of my bone?
Terri. I will travel the world with you.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer was right. Without all you have given me, I would be dark.
Our successes together, in the collective, we have been many. Our relationships with the Coalition for Patients’ Rights and the National Foundation of Women Legislators, to name only two, demonstrate how friends and colleagues have joined us for a purpose other than promotion of our own needs. A legion of leaders have been trained at the DC FLI, embodying the knowledge that being a good patient advocate requires advocating for one’s profession. The U.S. Congress is now steeped in new knowledge about what health care can be, constantly reminded that treating the cause, not the symptoms, of disease is the gift we owe future generations. The Natural Medicine Journal is read by thousands of like-minded practitioners, all who now have a scientific understanding of naturopathic medicine.
You stand strong and ready for the next challenges and opportunities with a future so bright it hurts the eyes. Be careful when you blink. Don’t miss the changes, the shifts. Stay true to your mission. Hold fast to your vision. 
You have power. We live in a world with war, pain, anger and fear. It is seeping into our lives, impacting our language, resulting in actions that change the world. Naturopathic medicine has the power to heal not just the body, but our hearts and our Mother Earth. Carry your message with grace and love; be the healing presence our world so desperately needs. Watch as your profession grows, the result of your commitment to my grandchildren’s grandchildren. Love and care, truly it is really all that there is.