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WATCH THEIR ACCEPTANCE REMARKS: GARY LABRANCHE, 2012 Association Executive of the Year • BOB HARRIS, 2012 Association Partner of the Year • MARTINEAU-CORNISH Award, announced by Steven C. Anderson, 2004 Association Executive of the Year • PHOTO GALLERY of the 2012 Salute to Association Excellence
...I remember the very first time I attended this event. I sat way back there. I looked up here and thought to myself – wow, those guys are old. Well, now that I am standing here and looking out there, I will tell you this: I was right.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, I am only here because of you. Just as “it takes a village to raise a child” it seems that it has taken most of you to get me where I am today.
I am frankly astonished that you did so well, given that you had so little to work with....
Because of you, where we live and work, what we eat and breathe and virtually everything we touch is safer because associations worked to make it happen. We can depend on millions of professionals because associations set standards and codes of conduct, credentialed knowledge and provide professional development. Buyers find sellers and people with a need find people with solutions, because of associations. Cures are found and arts supported, because associations are organized to carry out those missions.
The diversity of associations reflects the diversity of people - and the diversity of their dreams and goals. By giving organized voice to diversity, associations honor the aspirations of every citizen. The right to freely associate is part of our contract with liberty. While anyone with a Smartphone can rally thousands to a cause, change comes only with sustained action. Associations have proven to be the most effective means to organize, fund, and sustain targeted effort over time.
But this doesn’t just happen. It demands professionalism, stewardship and innovation. And it also requires us to recognize that every association has a stake in the right of every other association to express their views and pursue their missions. We must be in this together if we are to ensure both our rights as a community and our future as professionals.
In his 2004 speech on this stage, our colleague Steve Anderson, now CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, reminded us that Supreme Court decisions like NAACP v. Alabama in 1958 confirmed that freedom of association is guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In other words: Associations are the Freedom of Speech made manifest.
While the Supreme Court has long held this as “beyond debate,” we are now embroiled in just such a debate. A proposed rule would restrict federal employees from attending most educational programs, meetings, conferences and exhibitions held by trade associations. This proposed rule would isolate government employees from job-creators in the private sector and promote poorly-informed policy-making....
More than ever, we must truly be in this together. While these disconcerting legislative and regulatory issues spring from Washington, so, too, springs inspiration. Not far from where we stand, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial pays tribute to a president who faced both The Great Depression and World War II.
In January 1941, with much of the world already at war or under the jack-boots of tyranny, President Roosevelt outlined his vision for civilization. FDR described “Four Freedoms”: freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. The Four Freedoms were a framework for policy during and after World War II.
The Four Freedoms inspired me to ask: “What rights are most essential to the association community? For which freedoms are we, the leaders of the association community, willing to fight?”
Just as FDR’s Four Freedoms are now carved in his memorial, I’d offer you “Four Freedoms of Association” that should be firmly engraved in the foundation of every free society:
1. Freedom of association - the freedom of citizens to form, join, support and benefit from the organizations of their choice.
2. Freedom of self-determination - the freedom of each association to determine its own structure and governance.
3. Freedom of representation - citizens who are guaranteed freedom of speech do not lose that freedom when they join together to express that voice as a community.
4. Freedom from interference - associations must have economic freedom to successfully achieve their missions - unimpeded by punitive tax policy or governmental interference.
Associations have been part of all of our nation’s yesterdays. So, too, must associations be part of all of its tomorrows. And that is only possible if we recognize that we are, indeed, all in this together....
It is right that we celebrate all of [the] award winners today. But it is not enough to commemorate this day only with applause and handshakes. Rather, this is an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to the mission that still lies before us, to ensure that all of us and all of those to come enjoy the freedom of association. That is the highest honor we can pay to each other - and it is the greatest service we can perform for our nation.
In 1916, the first society of association executives was established in Chicago, marking the formal beginning of the association management profession. We now stand, as those founders once stood, with the future of the association community in our hands.
When we celebrate the centennial of our profession in 2016, our legacy will be measured by how we responded when it mattered most. The decisions we make and the actions we take will say a lot about who we are and what we believe in. We will either be in this together and thrive - or go our separate ways and fail....
To view LaBranche's acceptance remarks at the TRENDS 2012 Salute to Association Excellence, click here.