PIECES OF THE PAST: A Thanksgiving Mantra

Tacy Callies Pieces of the Past

Left to right: Bernie Lester, Ben Hill Griffin III and Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

By Brenda Eubanks Burnette

Several years ago, I was at the 2017 Florida Ag Hall of Fame dinner for my friend, Bernie Lester, who was being inducted that year. He recounted such a wonderful story during his speech that I asked him to send it to me so I would have it for the Citrus Archives, and I’d like to share a portion of it with you:

“Whether the problem is screwworms in cattle and wildlife, beetles in timber, fungus in vegetables, canker and greening in citrus, adverse weather conditions, onerous regulations and unfair trade policies, if you like a challenge, Florida agriculture is the place to be.

“Ecclesiastes 3:23 says that the best a man can do is to enjoy his work. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says that whatever you do, do your best.

“Florida agriculture continues to confront and overcome its challenges because it consists of dedicated individuals who enjoy what they do and always strive to do their best. I conclude these remarks with a memorable quote from one of Florida’s agricultural legends, Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

“It was the practice of the legend to frequently assemble Ben Hill III and me with the comment, ‘Let’s go for a ride.’ The interpretation of the statement was ‘I want to see the property, ask some questions, probably give you some suggestions and see if you are managing the property as expected.’

“On one such occasion, I was driving us in his Wagoneer on one of the rather narrow ranch roads with ditches on both sides. The legend was asking questions, offering suggestions, when, all of a sudden, he became real quiet. After a few moments, he, just as suddenly, slapped the dash.

“I was so startled that I almost drove us into the ditch. At the same time I was thinking, ‘Gracious, we must have really flunked the answer to his last question. What in the world is going to happen now?’

“What happened was this quote: ‘Ben Hill, Bernie, I could be anywhere in the world I wanted to be today and this is where I want to be!’

“He liked what he did and he expected all of us, including himself, to always strive to do our best. Florida agriculture will continue to thrive, though likely in different forms, as long as it is comprised of individuals who enjoy what they do and are determined to do their best in confronting and overcoming the challenges.”

Thank you, Bernie Lester, for bringing home such a simple yet powerful mantra!

In this time of Thanksgiving, I hope you all enjoy what you do and always strive to give it your best, as a lasting legacy to those around you. The industry’s future will be influenced by your efforts. We thank you, the farmers, who struggle to put the food on our tables under conditions that seem to be more challenging every day. May you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Play a part in preserving citrus history
Do you have any photos, memorabilia or stories you’d like to share or donate to the Citrus Archives? Contact Brenda@BurnetteandAssociates.com. Visit www.FloridaCitrusHallofFame.com to view videos, photos, postcards, citrus labels.

Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.

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