Has it been a year already?
That’s what so many people have asked me as I’ve told them about the timing of this transition. And I guess that’s a good thing. So far, at least to my face, no one has said, “it’s about time!” But the meeting isn't over yet.
I’m here mostly to express my gratitude to you, for allowing me to have one of the greatest experiences in the world, that of NPC president. I’ll always treasure the support, and the hard work and other participation evidenced in the Club over the past year.
I know that same spirit will also be the proverbial wind beneath the wings of our 105th president, Theresa Werner, my former colleague and a longtime friend and fellow board member.
As I look back on it, I didn’t fully understand what being president would really be like beforehand. Yes, I knew much about the operational part, having been a committee chair or board member over the years (yes, one of those legacy people), but there is something remarkable about the support one enjoys, both inside the Club house, and elsewhere.
A special note of appreciation for our former presidents, book ended by our senior surviving president John Cosgrove – inaugurated 51 years ago. John, could you take a bow?
At the other end of the timeline is my immediate predecessor Alan Bjerga, who was very giving of his time to help me move along the learning curve.
There are many good things happening here. And I would like to highlight just a few.
Our membership has stabilized.
In fact, at our December board meeting, we learned that we enjoyed the slightest year-over-year increase in membership.
Given the stresses of the journalism industry and the broader economy, we've been fortunate to have done as well as we have in recent years.
Thanks to the guidance of the supremely intelligent Executive Director Bill McCarren, and the hard work of his remarkable staff, the NPC business is strong. It continues to allow us to build cash reserves, largely on target with what our auditors have recommended, and our strategic plan has mandated.
Beyond dollar signs, what about the Club? What about the heart of the National Press Club?
This is admittedly hard, but not impossible to measure.
What one Golden Owl and a new, young member experience might be quite different. For one, the sense is based on memories, the other based on expectations.
So, I'll tell you what I think. My sense is that our Club house spirit is strong. The NPC election, while spirited, perhaps more so than some of the incumbent candidates might have preferred, served the Club well. There was no doubt about the outcome. The membership spoke loud and clear.
With our more than two dozen NPC committees, participation in our programming is robust. And the brand of the National Press Club, to the extent that it helps to drive both the business and the Club, continues to grow in industry and global awareness.
Thanks to the leadership of Speakers Committee Chair and Bernie Krug Award winner Melissa Charbonneau, the Speakers Luncheons turned a lot of heads and drove news coverage. Between Herman Cain, Michele Bachman, Ron Paul, Tom Brokaw and Ben Bernanke -- just to name a few, the line-up was strong.
Melissa has since taken an assignment working as a public information officer supporting the US and coalition effort in Afghanistan. She was planning to watch our web stream today, so if that’s true, God bless you Melissa, we miss you and thank you for all of your work for both Speakers and the 5K.
With regard to the Luncheons venue, which has a history going back to FDR-- I would encourage all future participants process to strive for the best possible speakers. We don't have to settle, and we shouldn't.
You can demand top notch quality speakers. You can demand that news be made, and you can expect to be successful. No one is served well by accepting less. Not our members, not our brand, not our tradition.
People from around the world look to this organization to be aggressively outspoken on the issue of press freedoms. This was hammered home to me time and time again.
It was not something I could have anticipated, until I had the chance to feel it, first hand.
We don’t know how good we have it as journalists working in the relatively comfortable United States. In too many places around the world, journalists are persecuted, killed, or tortured, just for doing their jobs. Here, the pain is mostly economic. Not insignificant, but paling by comparison to conditions elsewhere.
I'll remember Mukesh, the television journalist from Pakistan. He asked to meet with me after World Press Freedom Day, planning to return to his country.
He said if we knew who he was, the chances were better that someone might be willing to pay a ransom if he were kidnapped. He'd been beaten and detained earlier in his career.
John Donnelly is the excellent chair of the Press Freedoms Committee and I know our new president will continue to rely on John and the other able committee members for help.
Elsewhere, our communications through The Wire become more robust. We added a weekly printed product available at the front desk, compiling The Wire, for those who aren’t on computers or smartphones.
Committee participation generally was energetic. And that's so vitally important to keep members engaged and to build out our programming, like the 5K, the Book Fair, the NPC Awards, Events, the Fourth Estate Award, Young Members, Fellowship, History and Heritage, and the list goes on and on. I wish that we had time today to talk about the fine work done by so many people. But take my word, it is very much appreciated.
Being the NPC president must be something like running a marathon. Truthfully, I don’t know that for a fact because I have not run a marathon myself.
But I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wife Jeanne, who has run marathons. I’m look very much forward to spending more quality time with her. Thank you!
Beyond Jeanne and our amazing son Christopher, my AP family has been immensely supportive of my work here.
And for that, I’ll always be grateful, particularly to the head of our Broadcast operation, Kevin Roach, himself an NPC member.
When you have top notch staffers to work with, like Melinda Cooke, director of membership, and Havilah Ross, a new addition to the staff who works in the president’s office, and what a blessing that has been -- I can tell you that one is very well taken care of.
But, I think you know that spirit extends to all members, for example, when taking advantage our club house restaurant, the Reliable Source. There, the great Mesfin Mekonen and his staff treat every member like a superstar. We thank you for that as well.
Now, it might be tempting for one to feel some sense of mourning that this wonderful experience is coming to an end.
But that would be to miss the point. One line that my bride Jeanne pointed out seems just right. It goes like this -- "don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened."
So, I'm smiling as I hand the gavel over to my remarkably capable successor. She's going to do a great job as the 105th president of the Club.
It could well be her first big mistake, but I’m honored to have been asked to be the emcee of her inaugural next week. I hope you’ve made your reservations, or will do so, soon.
I plan to remain involved both as a former president and a member, and I'll look forward to continuing to count you, as my friends.
So again, thank you. And now, please give a warm National Press Club welcome to your president, Theresa Werner!
For more information check out http://www.press.org
For more information check out http://www.press.org