By Rich Polt
Published July 05, 2012
Have you ever wanted to walk away from the madness of your day-to-day routine to pursue a dream … no matter how crazy it might feel? Who doesn’t harbor such fantasies from time to time? The only difference between most of us and Steve Smith is that he, along with his wife Alayne Marker, actually did it!
After a 17 year career, which took him to the halls of the U.S. Congress (as a staffer); to Venezuela, Nigeria and Sri Lanka as a press officer for the U.S. Foreign Service; to Seattle where he worked as director of Executive Communications for the Office of the President at Boeing Commercial Airplane Group; Steve closed out the 20th century by calling it quits. In 2000, he and Alayne moved to Montana, where they co-founded the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that specialized in caring for disabled animals.(Anyone else reminded of this?)
In 2010, the couple moved the nonprofit to New Hampshire. In keeping with New England tradition, they changed the name of the organization to the Rolling Dog Farm (a much more New Hampshire sounding name). The mission remains the same today: To rescue and shelter disabled animals, and to show how disabled animals can have a wonderful quality of life, if they’re only given a chance.
Steve … I have tremendous respect for anyone who goes after their dreams as you have, and is able to couple it with a cause for the greater good. Thanks for answering my questions!
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
To do something that is good for others and that is meaningful for me.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?”
To turn this old New England farm into a self-supporting, self-sustaining agricultural enterprise. We want to produce all the food for the animals and people who live here, and ultimately have enough bounty left over that can be sold to generate revenue to support our charitable mission indefinitely.
IF YOU COULD MEET WITH ANYONE (ALIVE), WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM?
James Hansen, the renowned climate scientist at NASA. I’d like to ask him, “Just how doomed are we?” It seems every month there is yet another report or study showing that climatic changes are occurring faster than models predicted. Hansen has been more outspoken than most climate scientists, but I’d still like to get his personal take on how he thinks all of this is going to unfold and what our chances are of coping with it.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Not original, to be sure, but it sums up the point better than anything. We seem to have become a culture that is addicted to distractions — whether it’s entertainment, sports, video games, or social networking. Too many people spend their lives passively sitting in front of a screen — it’s the “life as a spectator sport” thing — rather than doing something productive with their free time. It’s being a passive “consumer” rather than an active “producer.” Each of us is given this amazing gift called a life, and in my view we should use it as an opportunity to do good, or to create real value, or to end suffering, or to produce useful and necessary things. So my book would be about how to live your life like that.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU, IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
My wife says this is an easy one — Steve Martin or Robin Williams. She says I’m “strange” … but usually in a funny way. (Hey, I try.)
WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING?
That life is such a gift, and so short, that we need to make the most of it. Related to this belief is that life is also brutally unfair, so if we are fortunate to be one of the “lucky ones,” we really have an obligation to do something positive and meaningful with the time we’ve been given.
WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?
Oh, this is a tough one. There are so many … whether it’s Rachel Carson, who wrote Silent Spring; Nelson Mandela (I was living in South Africa when he was imprisoned on Robben Island); Martin Luther King, Jr.; there are so many like them, people who simply didn’t accept that the world as they knew it “had to be,” and set out to change it. And then there are all of our men and women in uniform, risking their lives every day. There is no shortage of inspiration out there.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
Yikes, I’m afraid I’d still be back in the corporate world, plugging away. I can’t imagine doing that any longer.
TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF.
I was born in Pakistan. No, really. My parents were in the U.S. Foreign Service, serving as diplomats, so I spent a lot of time growing up in different countries.
WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED?
What’s the hardest part of our job? Without a doubt, it’s having to euthanize an animal. Many of our disabled animals come to us later in life, after they have developed disabilities, so because of our more senior “demographics,” we lose quite a few every year. It comes with the territory, but it’s heartbreaking.