World welcomes Belkind to Club presidency
January 26, 2014 | By Mark Schoeff Jr. | email@example.com
Ambassadors and journalism luminaries came to the National Press Club for an international inaugural celebration of Myron Belkind as the organization’s 107th president.
Standing before a crowd of 350 at a dinner in the Club ballroom on Saturday, Jan. 25, Belkind placed his hand on a globe to take a light-hearted oath of office that was followed by a serious message about extending the reach of the Club beyond U.S. borders.
The National Press Club "is respected around the world as an essential global media center, and I hope we can enhance that reputation during 2014 in this, the city that is considered by many to be the world’s capital,” Belkind told an audience that included diplomats from 37 countries, 25 of whom were ambassadors. “We hope during the coming year to have many programs of an international theme to emphasize the National Press Club’s global role.”
The evening, billed as the Club’s “first international inaugural gala,” reflected Belkind’s four decades as an Associated Press foreign correspondent and bureau chief in Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi, London and Tokyo.
The festivities began with a Chinese Lion Dance featuring performers embodying two colorful lion costumes and prancing their way from Club's center lobby to the Holeman Lounge.
Before dinner, Master of Ceremonies and former Club President Gil Klein led the audience in practicing “namaste,” an Asian salutation in which people press their hands together, point their fingers upward and bow slightly. Belkind has made the gesture, which represents a divine spark within every person, an official Club greeting for his one-year term.
The evening concluded with a performance by a George Washington University student dance team that performed Bhangra, a folk dance of the Indian state of Punjab.
Keynote speaker South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool said Belkind’s leadership of the Club is appropriate for an era dominated by globalization.
“Tonight is a statement about who Myron Belkind is,” Rasool said. “It signifies he understands that the world must be one that embraces people of other ethnicities, of other religions, of other languages and of other cultures.”
Rasool praised Belkind for spearheading a tribute at the Club to the life and legacy of former South African President Nelson Mandela in November, 2012 – an event that celebrated the leader’s contributions to freedom and a vibrant press while he was still alive. The program was highlighted in a display case at the Club when Mandela died on Dec. 5.
“I can see you’re already putting your special stamp of inclusiveness, multiculturalism, reaching out beyond our comfort zones on the Press Club,” Rasool said. “This will be your hallmark.”
Former CNN anchor Frank Sesno highlighted Belkind’s current professional endeavor – teaching at The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, where Sesno is the director.
Sesno, hired by Belkind as an AP radio reporter in London in 1979, said that the longtime bureau chief stresses to students the importance of accuracy, credibility, fairness and including many points of view in coverage.
“Myron brings this mission to our school,” Sesno said. “He inspires and he challenges.”
Outgoing Club President Angela Greiling Keane said that Belkind distinguished himself at the Club after he joined in 2004, following his return to Washington from overseas.
Belkind quickly assumed the chairmanship of the International Correspondents Committee, recruiting foreign reporters to the Club and arranging many Embassy Nights. Belkind also led the drafting of the Club’s strategic plan.
“He immediately became one of our most dedicated volunteers,” Greiling Keane said.
Belkind, who credits the Club for helping him establish a second career as an educator, said that although he is taking over the organization while the profession is undergoing wrenching changes, he is hopeful about its future.
“We don’t know what the world will be like in 100 years, but I am confident that there will still be a craving for information and for news, irrespective of how it is delivered or received,” Belkind said.
Just before the after-dinner party, the Club received two iconic images from two Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographers, Max Desfor and Nick Ut. Desfor donated to the Club a photo of Gandhi and the first Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, while Ut presented a photo he shot of a badly burned young girl running from a napalm attack during the Vietnam War.