"What should I write about?" I asked my wife. "My Machine Design column is due." She suggested, "Why don't you write about what engineers should be thankful for? It's Thanksgiving, after all. And you can make it semi-humorous."
So I sat down to do just that.
Finally, it came to me: Engineers, yes; Thanksgiving, yes. But what I want to tell you is why I am thankful to-and for-engineers.
Of course, there's the obvious: Not a thing in our built environment, not a vehicle, tool, computer, or machine was made without an engineer. The food that we eat, the water we drink, even the very air we breathe, are wholesome, thanks to engineers.
Design. Make. Build. Produce. Solve. Fix. Understand. These verbs belong to engineers.
Thank you, dear engineer! Thank you for all you bring into my life!
When the first iron ring that was to be used in the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer (which originated and is mostly practiced in Canadian engineering schools) was sent to Rudyard Kipling, who had written the ceremony, along with an apologetic note stating that the ring needed some more refinement, he responded:
"But the ring is now an Ancient Landmark, not to be deviated from. It is an allegory in itself. It is rough, as the mind of a young man. It is not smoothed off at the edges any more than the character of the young. It is hand-hammered all around and the young have all their hammerings coming to them. It has neither beginning nor end, any more than the work of an engineer, or as we know, Space itself. It will cut gold if worn next to it; thus showing that one had better keep one's work and one's money-getting quite separate"
The moving words of the Obligation (a word Kipling suggested in place of "Oath") capture the essence of the profession:
"I _____, in the presence of these my betters and my equals in my Calling, bind myself upon my Honour and Cold Iron, that, to the best of my knowledge and power, I will not henceforward suffer or pass, or be privy to the passing of, Bad Workmanship or Faulty Material in aught that concerns my works before mankind as an engineer, or in my dealings with my own Soul before my Maker.
"My Time I will not refuse; my Thought I will not grudge; my Care I will not deny towards the honour, use, stability and perfection of any works to which I may be called to set my hand.
"My Fair Wages for that work I will openly take. My Reputation in my Calling I will honourably guard; but I will in no way go about to compass or wrest judgement or gratification from any one with whom I may deal. And further, I will early and warily strive my uttermost against professional jealousy and the belittling of my working-colleagues in any field of their labour.
"For my assured failures and derelictions I ask pardon beforehand of my betters and my equals in my Calling here assembled, praying that in the hour of my temptations, weakness and weariness, the memory of this my Obligation and of the company before whom it was entered into, may return to me to aid, comfort and restrain.
"Upon Honour and Cold Iron, God helping me, these things I purpose to abide."
You have accepted the challenge and responsibility of making the physical world I live in, and making it always better, always safer, always more comfortable. And even if you never got an iron ring, I know you have entered in spirit into Obligation. I've never met an engineer who hasn't.
So as Americans turn their hearts with gratitude toward God, and give thanks to Him for His bounty, I want to thank Him for engineers - and to thank you for being one!
Joel Orr has been consulting, writing, and speaking about engineering software for more than three decades. Visit his website at www.joelorr.com.