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Bush returns to ASAE.

Bush Returns to ASAE

Wednesday, February 20, 11 a.m. When the White House called, ASAE President R. William Taylor, CAE, said yes. President Bush wanted to accept ASAE's long-standing invitation to speak to the association community again, and Bobbie Kilberg, special assistant to the President on public liaison, said a window had opened--the following Wednesday. Could ASAE accommodate? No problem.

Just a year before, at ASAE's 1990 Spring Convention & Exposition, President Bush challenged association executives to help solve domestic problems through community service. "Government isn't the only entity with the power to make a difference," Bush said then. "I don't know if you're fully aware of the extent of your power, of the expertise--the potential energy--your organizations can command, of your ability to help solve community problems."

Associations have taken that challenge seriously. The White House had been kept apprised of their progress through President Taylor's contact with the Points of Light Foundation and his service as vice chair in the independent National One to One Mentoring Partnership. Now, Bush wanted to applaud associations' efforts as he turned from the Persian Gulf War to deliver his domestic agenda.

One week and counting

With a major convention to start in 11 days, ASAE staff were pressed to get word of the presidential address to hundreds of local executives, collect and tally their RSVPs, and arrange the event's tightly controlled logistics. Four senior staff members met with a White House team headed by Judd Swift, then deputy director of presidential advance, Thursday morning. They worked out site, security measures, and guest selection.

On Friday, 1,200 invitations were faxed to members via a direct computer link between ASAE's data base and a service in Denver. Response faxes began flowing within hours. Meanwhile, seven staffers combed through community service programs, calling to ask for logo art to piece together a tremendous "quilt" that would hang behind the stage at the President's address.

Computer services staff kept up with incoming registrations--which per the White House had to include social security numbers and be passed on for review--over the weekend, but the deluge hit Monday morning. By noon registrations surpassed the maximum 750.

A Tuesday walk-through at the J. W. Marriott Hotel, Washington, D.C., set in place final security measures, such as two metal detection arches for registrants to pass through. The quilt, completed that day, went up late Tuesday night.

The hour arrives

Wednesday, February 27, 11:08 a.m. The Marriott ballroom doors had closed at 10:20 a.m.; for security, the room was sealed well before the President arrived. To the rear, journalists, photographers, and video crews with eight television cameras elbowed for space and readied equipment. At the front were another 25 photographers. President Bush had been secluded for several minutes in the ready-room; the country would hear that night the news Bush received in those minutes: Saddam Hussein had accepted the United Nation resolution and peace was imminent.

ASAE President Taylor then welcomed to the stage President Bush, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp, then-acting Secretary of Education Ted Sanders, and Bob Woodson of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. The crowd held more than 700 executives and staff representing charities, community groups, professional societies, and trade associations with a stake in the future of their communities, as well as some 60 schoolchildren--the generation Bush's domestic policies may ultimately affect most.

Taylor named a few of the associations dedicating services to needy communities. One, the National Association of Home Builders, Washington, D.C., is renovating houses for the elderly and poor, winterizing old buildings, and constructing homes for sick children nationwide.

Another, the National Association of Life Underwriters, Washington, D.C., initiated a "Million Hour Pledge" of community service by affiliated chapters. They have exceeded their goal by 60 percent.

President Bush commended ASAE and its members on "a terrific job" developing opportunities for others. "The story of America has been the story of opportunity," Bush said, naming democratic pioneers from Thomas Paine to Rosa Parks. "But it doesn't end there, with these heroes from our past. There are the new American heroes of today, many of them in this room. And they, too, are inspired by pride, integrity, faith in the dignity of man, and courage . . . . It's called leadership by example.

"These modern visionaries are . . . propelling us into the next American century. Theirs is a movement . . .defined by what Thomas Jefferson called |the American mind' and what I've been calling |the American idea.' . . . It's a vision driven by the strength and power of the American Dream."

While many people in this country enjoy the fruits of opportunity, Bush lamented those for whom "America has not yet fulfilled the promise of equality of opportunity. We know who they are: They're the hopeless and the homeless, the friendless and the fearful, the unemployed and the underemployed, the ones who can't read, the ones who can't write. They are the ones who don't believe that they will ever share in the American Dream."

Bush's solution is to make opportunity easier to grasp by empowering individuals. His domestic agenda, as he outlined it before the ASAE audience, is to promote choice and opportunity through * education and educational flexibility, * home ownership for low-income people, * business enterprise zones, * anti-discrimination laws, * community opportunity areas, * social security earnings tests, and * anti-crime efforts.

"It's up to each of us to secure the triumph of |the American idea,'" Bush concluded. After a standing ovation, ASAE President Taylor told Bush, "I think we are all fairly awestruck that the leader of our country recognizes with such clarity the value of associations as part of the solution--that it is the collective action of individuals joined by a shared vision that can produce miracles."

The audience seemed to agree. As Nettie N. Baldwin, assistant executive director for state branches and regions, American Association for Counseling and Development, Alexandria, Virginia, put it, "ASAE is made up of all kinds of associations. It's a group powerful enough to bring the President to speak because who we are addressing is who he wants to address. This association is making an impact on America."

Kristin Staroba is senior editor of Association Management.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:American Society of Association Executives; George Bush
Author:Staroba, Kristin
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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