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Plain Talk for a New Generation
The Right Stuff

There are some things you just can’t argue with. One of those things is that ASTM International and ASTM standards are known and respected all over the world. I’ve thought a lot about that lately. Yes, the international issues we struggle with are still percolating, there are still obstacles to overcome, but no matter what’s happening out there in the world, the quality and relevance of ASTM standards is unchanged.

There is no secret to creating standards that can command that kind of respect. All it takes is people with the right stuff, people who believe passionately in the standards they are developing, people with an inner conviction that life somewhere is going to be better because they are doing this work. At ASTM International, that kind of passion and dedication exist in abundance in our technical committee members. It’s palpable. And nowhere was it more in evidence than at the Officers’ Conference in September. Over 80 ASTM members traveled from far and wide to ASTM International Headquarters to learn how to be effective leaders of ASTM standards development activities. Seeing their commitment, I was more certain than ever that ASTM’s greatest resource is its thousands of volunteer members.

Much has been entrusted to the leaders of ASTM’s technical committees. In my 32 years at ASTM International, I have seen hundreds of officers receive the Award of Merit. In all that time, I have not seen a single recipient fail to acknowledge the contributions of their fellow committee members. I have heard committee officers say that their service has been a part of their jobs, that it has been instrumental in enhancing careers, that it has given them access to an international network of experts — but I have also heard them speak movingly of how they have been inspired by their fellow members. I have heard them relate their own success directly to their colleagues. They inevitably pay tribute to the ASTM International staff. In the heady atmosphere of peer recognition, this takes character.

The consensus process is not a piece of cake, and it doesn’t just happen. Expert talent abounds in a technical committee, and it takes a special kind of leadership to steer it in an orderly direction. In the midst and mix of individual technical goals, the committee’s mission must be kept at the forefront. Dispute settlement requires a deft hand, and dissent must be handled with fairness and diplomacy. This is no ordinary job. Yet it is done every day in ASTM International technical committees by extraordinary people who believe deeply in the value of their work, so deeply that they are willing to give an extra full measure of service. To these extraordinary people I say thank you.

Yes, those other issues are still out there. The merits of different standards developing processes are still being debated around the world, but ASTM International and ASTM standards are unassailable. The world is a better place because of them, and this is a direct result of ASTM’s volunteer members. No one can argue with that.

James A. Thomas
President, ASTM

Copyright 2004, ASTM International