National Press Club

President Andrea Edney's Inaugural Address

Andrea Edney | February 10, 2018

Andrea Edney is the 111th president of The National Press Club.

Andrea Edney is the 111th president of The National Press Club.

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. By now you all know that I am Andrea Edney. It is my honor to serve as the 111th President of the National Press Club.

First, I would like to thank the Academy ... oh wait, this is Washington. I’ve heard it said that Washington is Hollywood for geeks and wonks, but you wouldn’t know it looking out at this well dressed, beautiful crowd tonight. Thank you for being here.

Actually, I want to start by thanking my wonderful colleagues at Bloomberg News. For twenty years, they have given me remarkable opportunities. They stand for impartiality, accuracy and integrity. I am so grateful to work with such amazing colleagues and friends many of whom have brought their great spirit here into the room tonight.

I am so happy to have my family, coming from across the country, here with us tonight. We have with us my mom and dad. They gave me everything, but the most important was their unconditional love. And thank you to my brother and sister-in-law, and to everyone from Omaha and the Edney side of the family. I am so happy you are here.

And my husband, Mike. He did a phenomenal job of organizing this event tonight with the wonderful staff at the Club. Without the unswerving support he has shown me in this and in all things, I would not be standing here today. And then there is our newest addition to the family, Cecilia Jane. In just two short months, she has completely changed our lives. She has filled them with joy. She wanted me to let you know how much she regrets not being here tonight. She really just couldn’t find anything to wear to a black tie event. And she has a very important appointment tomorrow for her baptism and wanted to be fully rested. But she will see all of you around the club this year.

To my fellow board members, thank you! These remarkable people are working journalists and communications professionals, with full time jobs and pressing deadlines. But they give of their time to make the Press Club the best it can be. Their service is extraordinary and I value their advice, their energy, and their friendship. Together, we lead this remarkable enterprise begun more than a century ago to uphold the highest standards in journalism.

As I prepared to take my place in the long line of President -- so many of whom have encouraged and helped me, thank you.

As I prepared to stand with these great leaders I became very aware of what the Press Club is and does and means to so many here and around the world. We have a tremendous responsibility. Thanks to all of you for putting your trust in me to carry forward the good work we have done.

We are the World’s Leading Professional Organization for Journalists. And that is a lot to live up to.

We live up to that responsibility by defending the freedom of the press to keep the American People informed of what their government is doing in their name. Just tonight, Floyd Abrams, the country’s foremost authority on the First Amendment, reminded us of the vital role a free and fair press, protected from government interference, plays in our democracy. Thank you, Floyd, for being here with us tonight.

We live up to that responsibility by striving to improve our profession, through education and training. Our National Press Club Journalism Institute offers a series of classes and seminars to keep our community of journalists at their sharpest.

We live up to that responsibility by recognizing our most talented journalists, through our awards program run by Will Lester.

We live up to that responsibility by providing a forum for world leaders, high ranking officials of our own government, captains of industry, and other newsmakers to come and meet the press. These prominent voices come to this room to make newsbreaking announcements and to answer your questions. These are ably organized by f the Headliners Team led by Betsy Fischer and Lisa Matthews -- please stand! And we identify the next generation of Journalists through our wonderful scholarships program that has been my joy to lead since 2010. Just during my time with the program, we helped 28 amazing kids to go through school.

But not all our activities are here at the Club or even in Washington. In 2015 and 2016 we were leaders in the effort to fight for the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian from Iran. We are really happy that Jason and his wife, Yegi, are back in DC. And happier still to see Jason filing stories again for the Washington Post. Jason has seen first-hand the perils of a country without a free press. And we have been working since last year on the case of Emilio Gutierrez, a Mexican journalist driven from his country by death threats. Emilio is being detained in El Paso while he awaits appeal of his amnesty request.

Emilio stood here on this stage last October and accepted the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award on behalf of his fellow journalists in Mexico. Many of you will recall his moving words. Two months later he was handcuffed by immigration agents and rushed toward deportation.

America used to be known as the place where journalists and activists could find safe harbor when attacked by their governments or driven from their country. It was what we stood for.

Now we are showing -- in this case -- something very different.

Where the words on the Statue of Liberty say: “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” nowhere does it say, “do not bring me the journalist whose life is at risk.”

This is why, in my first public act as President on my first day in office, I held a news conference and called for Emilio’s release and asylum. This important work began under the 110th administration of Jeff Ballou. And we will not rest until Emilio is released and granted amnesty.

We will continue to highlight and speak out against assaults on press freedom throughout the world, whether they be here, in Syria, Egypt, Turkey or Myanmar.

We are very fortunate to live in a country where the freedom of the press to report the news is enshrined in the very first amendment to our constitution. With that right, with that privilege, comes great responsibility. If we ask hard questions of our leaders -- no matter their political persuasion -- if we assiduously pursue fairness and objectivity, if we follow the facts wherever they lead, the freedom of the press will be strong and enduring. That is our charge, and, working together, we will keep it.

And this Club, alongside great champions of the First Amendment like our speaker tonight, Floyd Abrams, will not stop, we will keep fighting to protect press freedoms in this country and throughout the world. At the National Press Club, that’s just what we do. Thank you.