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September 2016

September, 2016

 The Three-legged Stool.  I cannot say that I have ever sat on one.  I can’t remember if I have even seen a three-legged stool.  But the term is used to describe quite a few things.  It was used in 1949 to describe the role of Social Security in an individual’s retirement plan.  In more recent years the term was used by Researchers at the University of Illinois to describe what they saw as the three main traits of leadership: readiness, willingness, and ability.  Ronald Reagan used the term to unite what he saw as the three strands of conservatism:  fiscal, social, and national security/defense.  In his declaration, Reagan stated that “a three-legged stool cannot stand if even one of the three legs is missing.”  If you have been involved with GATC for a few years or more you have most likely heard of the “three-legged stool” of which GATC is a part.  If you are a fairly new member you may not have heard of this.  But our club is indeed one of the legs on a three-legged stool.  The other two legs are the US Forest Service (specifically the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Gainesville, GA) and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (specifically the ATC Southern Regional Office in Ashville, NC).  But what does this mean for GATC and our mission?

First, all three legs of a three-legged stool are equally important.  As Reagan stated above, if any one of the legs is missing or weak, the stool will collapse.  GATC has always valued our partnerships with the Forest Service and the ATC.  If any part of that relationship were weak or missing, we could not accomplish our mission.  We strive continually to make those relationships stronger and more viable.  At the same time we must always be aware of our role as one of the legs of the stool.  GATC must always be developing leaders who have the three traits of leadership listed above:  readiness, willingness, and ability.  If we fail to do that, the three-legged stool, of which we are a part, will be weak and subject to collapse.

Second, the advantage of a three-legged stool, as opposed to a four-legged stool, is that a three-legged stool can sit on uneven terrain and still remain stable.  The terrain on which we work is constantly changing.  Building, maintaining, and protecting the Appalachian Trail in Georgia was the original purpose of GATC.  Hikers everywhere often comment on the quality of the Trail in Georgia.  Our Trail is known as one of the best kept sections anywhere from Georgia to Maine.  But today our tasks are much bigger.  Conservation plays a critical part of our mission and our efforts in this area grow every year.  The Club sees outreach to school children as a critical element of our work.  And our work in this area is used as a model for other trail maintaining clubs.  In recent years, GATC has increasingly promoted relationships with North Georgia communities around the AT.  In all these efforts GATC does not stand alone.  Our partners, the other two legs of the stool, stand with us and work with us to accomplish so much more than we could ever attain alone.

The three-legged stool is an idea that works.  We must always appreciate the value that the other two legs bring to the relationship.  At the same time, we must remember that we are also one of those critical legs of the stool.  Without all three legs remaining strong, the stool will collapse.

Submitted by: Don Hicks, GATC President