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A Texas-style closing session.

Red, white, and blue bunting, scenic, stage-wide video from across America, name-bearing signs, nominations, leaders, journalists, speeches about change, you'd think it was one of the political conventions held this summer. No, it was the Closing General Session held at the Atlanta Hyatt Regency during the ASAE 72nd Annual Meeting & Exposition in Atlanta.

With featured speakers like Texas Governor Ann Richards and CNN broadcast journalist Catherine Crier, a former Texas judge, along with the nomination for the incoming Chairman of the Board Quincalee Brown, CAE, and Chair-Elect Robert Elsner, CAE, all during a presidential election year, politics was bound to be in the air.

However, rather than the speakers emphasizing what they would do to bring about change, they focused on everyone's responsibility for change.

Take Change of Your Life

Crier set the tone by talking about individuals' roles in changes that are sweeping the world.

"It's a single incident after another that brings about this massive change," Crier says. And it's single people doing things to bring about change, from official political party leaders like Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin in the former Soviet Union to grassroots movement leaders like Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who used to be a shipyard electrician. Other nameless thousands make a difference by seizing the day every day.

Meanwhile, countries in transition are turning to the United States as an example of democracy, but our example is far from ideal, Crier says. These days Americans know less and care less about what is happening in the world than they did 20 years ago, based on reports of how much news they read and watch, Crier says. Even if they do watch the news--which is turning into "infotainment" with 10-second sound bites--the average newscast contains information equivalent to less than two thirds of a page of the New York Times.

People are voting based on this small amount of information, and the real issues are often lost, Crier says. As for the family values debate, "Do any of us need to be lectured by either the Republicans or the Democrats on family values?" she asks rhetorically.

Individual votes do make a difference, Crier affirms. In two elections since 1960, if one person in each precinct had voted differently, she says, the results of the election would have been different.

Yet many Americans have the attitude that individual actions don't make a difference. "We tend to look to the other guy to protect and clean up for us," Crier says. Americans want a savior, which may be why Ross Perot had such a large following, she observes.

But ultimately we make personal decisions that have more affect on our lives than institutions do. "We make the difference in our lives," Crier says. "We can choose to be responsible for the circumstances around us."

The true source of unhappiness is not doing what you've dreamed of doing, Crier says. "You want a better job, a better life, a better planet, you have what it takes right here and now. It's you who makes the difference."

Associations Make the Difference

Associations help Americans make a difference. Associations are guides through information and change, Texas Governor Anne Richards says. They touch every aspect of human life. Members are a captive audience, they look to associations to make sense of what is happening in the industry or interest the association represents.

With all the change that is occurring in the world, people feel "discombobulated" and don't know who to trust, Richards says. It's not just the politicians people are leery of, but all leaders. They feel let down by the system, and they demand $1.25 worth of service for every $1 they pay.

To combat this uncertainty, we must find new ways and methods to produce quality service, Richards says.

Organizations that aren't changing are losing members and money. Members are demanding value and quality. That demand is like an alarm Richards recounts she heard going off in the Texas Treasury Building during one of her first days as treasurer. Even though it was deafening, the guard did not hear it. Association executives need to hear the alarms: "If you don't change, you will die," Richards says.

Total quality management must be from the bottom up, Richards says. Getting your volunteers involved in planning change is vital. Richards learned this lesson during an exercise at the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina. One group of people were designated the planners and another group the implementers.

When the implementers tried to follow guidelines that the planners had designed for putting together a puzzle, mass chaos ensued.

The point of the exercise: Allow those who will be implementing a plan to be in on the plan from the beginning, Richards says. If they aren't, they will resist and emphasize the negative; if they have ownership through creating it, they will defend it tooth and nail.

Another key to creating quality is to empower people to make decisions and take responsibility. "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission," Richards says she tells her staff. A mistake is a chance to improve, but inaction is an opportunity missed.

To a certain extent, politicians and association executives are in the same business--customer satisfaction. That means "new thinking, new action, and new direction," she emphasizes.

Associations have the power to guide government. "Show government when it is headed wrong and when it is wrong headed," Richards says. But do it in partnership with the government, not fighting against. Together, "we can satisfy our customers, and we can produce new thinking to produce quality," she adds.

Bring on the Board

Men against Elsner, women against Elsner, children against Elsner, and even animals against Elsner. Why all the protest? All in jest for Robert Elsner, CAE, executive vice president and CEO of the California Medical Association, San Francisco. George Kirkland, CAE, president of the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau, roasted Elsner in his nomination of the long-time ASAE member for chair-elect of the ASAE Board of Directors.

In all seriousness, Elaine Binder, CAE, executive director of B'nai B'rith Women, Washington, D.C., and Board member cited the charm, persistence, and communication skills of 1992-93 Chairman Quincalee Brown, CAE. Brown has already taken the vision developed under Kathryn Johnson, CAE, the 1990-91 chairman of the Board, and made a strategic plan. Brown says her goals for the upcoming year are based on a "vision that encompasses the globe, rather than just a country," and include benchmarking, technology, and diversity. As those who know Brown well are aware, for the next year, TQM will take on a slightly different meaning: Total Quincalee Magic.

From Present to Immediate Past

Immediate-Past Chairman Gene N. Fondren, CAE, showed that he has plenty of charm and humor with a presentation of a special gift to his successor: a western-style shirt emblazoned "The rooster may crow, but the hen delivers the goods."

Fondren next presented a special gift to ASAE: a reproduction of a painting of Pennsylvania Avenue by G. Harvey, for the newly redesigned reception area of ASAE headquarters.

ASAE Straw Poll

Clinton nipped President Bush in A-PAC's Annual Meeting Mock Presidential Poll by 24 votes. Although the poll did not have enough participants to be statistically valid, it demonstrates how just a few votes can swing an election, so get out and vote! Here are the final results:
 Pct #Votes

Gov. Clinton 52 197
President Bush 46 173
H. R. Perot 2 8

Point to note: If 13 people had changed their votes, Bush would have nipped Clinton!
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Convention Daily; Closing General Session of the American Society of Association Executives 72nd Annual Meeting and Exposition
Publication:Association Management
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Previous Article:Copyright law update.
Next Article:Magical moments at Opening General Session.

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