Dishonoring trees

Government officials like to trumpet their kind. Various honoraria and kudos often recognize bureaucrats and politicians for merely showing up on the public scene. Yet, their activities take and distribute wealth from earners and unduly regulate the lives of citizens—not things that warrant pride in accomplishment and service. Not that public employees and politicians are necessarily bad people, but their activities rarely justify recognition above those who toil to pay their wages and other public benefits.

Recently, Don Carrington, executive editor of the Carolina Journal, has investigated “the most prestigious award that can be conferred by the governor of North Carolina”: The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Gov. Terry Sanford started this practice almost 50 years ago. Nearly 14,000 awards have been handed out, mostly to political operatives and bureaucrats—some with questionable character. State employees with 30 years’ service “routinely” receive the award, honoring them for “significant impact towards creating a better North Carolina.” (link, p.4)

In addition to the question of why these people deserve this “prestigious “award more than thousands of private citizens (one could argue that Andy Griffith deserved his posthumous award), apparently no criteria or review process has been established for qualifications—a Democrat operative noted that anyone who asked got one; if he didn’t have an “indictment pending”—of course, making it worthless.

The Carolina Journal staff mocks this award with parody. They offer The Order of the Loblolly Pine award to up to 70,000 people who want one to enhance their self-esteem and impress associates. In part the award states that the recipient “enjoys all the honors, rights, privileges, responsibilities, and ridicule thereunto appertaining.” All one need do is put his name on a certificate provided and date it. It can be cut out and framed.(Link, p.28)

I think it’s dishonorable to associate the historic, commercially valuable longleaf pine tree with people who take by force property of productive private citizens and often distribute it to their special interests and limited-use public projects. In contrast, longleaf pine wood products have contributed hugely to improved living conditions for millions of people. Those deserving this honor include private foresters, loggers, mill owners, wood marketers, builders and craftsmen; some of the people who actually do create a “better North Carolina.”

A more appropriate tree to recognize public officials is a small, scraggly unproductive species that grows slowly on poor quality sites along the southeastern coastal plain. For many of them I suggest an award called: The Order of the Turkey Oak.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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