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Rebuilding Our Foundation

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In a recent letter to the editor of our local newspaper, a retired Marine Colonel included the following passages written by an unknown priest:


“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

“It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.

“It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to demonstrate.

“It is the soldier who salutes the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

As I pondered these words, I thought about how often there is confusion in society as to how things really come about. These thoughts led me to consider some important aspects of our own business and the role agents have played for more than 150 years.

Allow me to paraphrase the foregoing soldiers salute in the context of the role of the life insurance agent.

“It is the agent, not the government, who pioneered the idea of employer-sponsored health insurance among small businesses, thereby bringing affordable health care to millions.

“It is the agent, more than friends, charities and car washes, who brings financial security to grieving families at the loss of a breadwinner.

“It is the agent, who more often than the lawyer or accountant, first broaches the subject of a Buy and Sell agreement to owners of a small business.

“It is the agent, not the banker, who shows them how to fund the agreement.

“It is the agent, not the good folks in the home office, who sheds a tear with the family of a deceased policyholder.

“It is the agent, not the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission, who has to find a way to communicate a message of hope to families and businesses that face great loss in the event of an untimely death.

“It is the agent, not the company officers, who daily faces rejection in the marketplace, and who despite this, perseveres to make a sale.

“It is the agent, not the law department, who initiates and makes the sale upon which all else that happens in an insurance company ultimately depends.”

And perhaps most important

“It is the agent, not the media, who converts conviction into action.

“And it is the agent, not the philosopher, who gives tangible substance to the concept of love.”

I have always been proud to have been a soldier in World War II, but also just as proud to be called a life insurance agent. I suspect that is because, as Ben Feldman used to say, “We can do what no one else can do.” And that is a great blessing both to our calling and the people we serve.

It is no secret that some people join the military for the sole purpose of receiving benefits such as funding for a college education. But when the heavy lifting is required in time of war, these are usually first to complain or find a way out.

Fortunately, that is not the case for the vast majority of our people in uniform who understand they are in an endeavor that requires dedication of purpose and of self. And that is also a blessing for us all.

I have known people who without hesitancy admit that their only objective in becoming a life insurance agent was to make a lot of money. Some succeeded, but most did not. I am reminded of J. Paul Getty, who at one time was regarded as the worlds richest man, and who, when asked how one goes about making a lot of money, replied, “I have never known anyone who set out to make a lot of money who succeeded in doing so. But I have known a good many people who set out to build a business who, in the process, made a lot of money.”

Over the years it has been my observation that when our business has been faced with a crisis of one sort or another and heavy lifting was required, it always has been those dedicated to the higher calling of our profession who have come forth to help.

Countless agents have organized and taught LUTC classes while others have walked the halls of Congress and state legislatures seeking better legislation or opposing destructive proposals. These are the people upon whose shoulders rest the future of our business and the welfare of the insurance-buying public.

Making money is important; we cannot really live without doing so. But it seems to me Getty had it right–it should be a byproduct of building a business that is useful to society as well as ourselves.

I have been told that the decline in membership in our field organizations such as the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors is, in large measure, because new people are “different.” They are alleged to have a different set of values and priorities. This may be merely another way of saying, “Im in it just for the money.” If that is so, then the real job for our business is to restore the sense of conviction that what we do is important to others. That is the foundation upon which any lasting structure must rest.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 26, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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