Happy Birthday ASPA!

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Greetings ASPA Family Members,

This is L. Dara Baldwin, from Washington, D.C. here at the 70th ASPA Annual Conference in sunny but windy Miami.  We had another fabulous day of interesting sessions, workshops and events.  Yesterday was Monday, March 23, 2009 and my day started with the Annual Section for Women in Public Administration’s (SWPA) Breakfast.  It was as in all the other years a fabulous event where the women of our field gathered together for fellowship and presenting awards to those in our field honoring their great work. Our speaker this year was Patricia Ireland the longest-serving president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from 1991-2001. Ms. Ireland currently resides in Miami, FL. A hallmark of her work has been to forge stronger links among the feminist, antipoverty, civil rights, disability and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movements.  She currently practices labor law and is working on her second book to follow her 1996 political autobiography What Women Want.  Ms. Ireland began her speech with an assessment of the professional backgrounds of the room asking who were of the government, academic and non-profit sector.  She commended us for working in such an important area of our community.  Ms. Ireland discussed how working in the area of increasing diversity was difficult and not always rewarding, but worth every minute.  She talked about how sometimes we create programs that we think are going to assist a group and it may do the opposite.  Ms. Ireland talked about being on the forefront of this work and still many years later working on the same issues but with a larger force of people and better processes.  She encouraged us to continue to move forward in our work.  The program ended with the induction of the new Board.  It is an honor to be the first African American Woman Vice-Chair of SWPA.  Please visit the SWPA website for full details of our event at: www.swpanet.org.

Then I attended one of the most exciting panels I have seen at an ASPA Conference based on “the most important issue” of our time – the United States economy/fiscal health.  The moderator was ASPA’s first Senior Executive Advisor Dr. Donna Shalala President of the University of Miami and past U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton Administration. The panelists were David Walker President and CEO of The Peter G. Peterson Foundation and Former Comptroller of the Government Accountability of the United States – who presented his “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour” information.  Robert L. Bixby who is the Executive Director of The Concord Coalition who is Mr. Walker’s partner in the tour presenting economy data.  Andrew G. Biggs who is the Resident Scholar of American Enterprise Institute presented information on the issue of health care and the economy.  The final panelist was Isabel Sawhill who is the Senior Fellow at the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institute, presented the elements of a budget comprise.  It was a two hour session where the panelists presented great information about the United States fiscal problems and gave solutions with a clear message that we are destroying the fiscal health of the next two generations.  Dr. Shalala then lead a question and answer between she and the panel in a Socratic format. She gave them the synopsis that each of them just received a phone call from President Obama’s office requesting that they present a 30 minute presentation about this issue, what solutions would you provide?  She asked a few other questions and then there was time for audience questions.  It was by far a most invigorating, educational and interactive event!!  Dr. Shalala was an excellent senior advisor and has completed her term here at the Conference. I would like to personally thank her for her wonderful dedication to our organization.   ASPA’s next senior advisor will be Mr. David Walker.  Mr. Walker is passionate about his new work of educating the public about our fiscal and government public management problems.  I look forward to watching him in action!! If you have not watched his documentary “I.O.U.S.A.”  you are missing out on a true educational experience that is imperative in this time of economic crisis.

After this session, I volunteered at the ASPA booth in our exhibit hall and answered member questions while I wrote yesterday’s blog.  I had the opportunity to speak with a young lady named Brandy who is from Miami and this was her first ASPA Conference. Brandy agreed to send a blog on her experience, so look for her posting. 

The day ended with our annual ASPA Awards program. I strongly recommend that you attend this event when you join us at our next conference. This is the time where we recognize the outstanding work of our members for work that is important to society! It is a time to give honor to those who have worked in the areas of publishing, service, membership enhancement and service to the organization in a leadership role.  I attended my first awards ceremony at my first conference in 2003 because one of my professors was receiving an award, but I made a commitment to attend always.  In the past seven years I have met people who have become dear friends and it is so beautiful to watch them receive the much deserved accolades!! This year I actually received one of those awards. President Don Klingner presented me with a Presidential Citation Award for my work as a Co-Chair of Finance. It was a true surprise when I received the email informing me of this honor prior to coming to Miami and a wonderfully humbling experience walking up on that stage to accept this award.  I must say that I share that award with all of my wonderful ASPA mentors and the best committee ever!!  (THANK YOU)

The day ended with one of the most important meetings of the conference the Membership Annual Meeting. This is where the president, the executive director, the finance committee, the endowment and the Board of Insurance Trust present their annual report to the ASPA body.  The accomplishments of the organization, the fiscal health and the future plans are all presented to the membership.

Then the night of University receptions began!!! Thank you to my alma mater, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ SPAA  for the International reception held in honor of our International attendees. On my way to the reception, I met Ken from Canada who promised to blog!!!  Thank you to USC for your great reception it was wonderful.  Happy Birthday to ASPA – 70 years of wonderful work!!!  There were two large cakes and a champagne toast!!!!  Then we ended with a dance party where the music was great and the dancing even better!!!  I hope to see this in San Jose in 2010!!!

Signing off from ASPA’s Annual Conference here in sunny MiamiJJJ

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