National Press Club

Inaugural Address

Myron Belkind | January 27, 2014

Photo: Noel St. John

I want to begin my first message to the NPC members by thanking everyone who helped organize and who attended the International Inaugural Gala on Saturday evening.

A number of persons approached me afterwards to say I should share my inaugural remarks focusing on the future of our profession and the National Press Club with our entire membership.

Here is the text:

Your Excellencies, Distnguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow National Press Club Members…

Thank you for a memorable international evening, and my personal thanks to all who worked so hard to make it happen. It reaffirmed how honored I am to be a member of the National Press Club.

After traveling around the world for 40 years as a foreign correspondent, I often am asked, “Why do I teach journalism to students at George Washington University when there have been massive job cutbacks and closure and shrinkage of so many newspapers?”

I often respond by saying, “because I have great optimism about our profession and its future.”

I am reminded of a quote by Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, who said in a speech exactly 79 years ago today, that “in seemingly darkest hours hope burns bright.”

And that is my view of journalism, one of hope and optimism even in very challenging times. That is why I teach it, that is why I still feel as passionately for the profession as I did when I first worked on my junior high school newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio.

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.

Even among the losses of jobs and media outlets in the last few decades there still are signs of growth, as there was with the establishment of Bloomberg News 24 years ago, as there was with the establishment of Politico exactly seven years and two days ago, on Jan. 23, 2007, and as there is almost every day with new outlets, often as a result of personal initiatives by individuals.

When I was younger, the goal of journalists was to own their own newspapers, but that was prohibitive because of the millions of dollars that were needed just to buy a printing press.

Now, anyone can do so, almost for the cost of a laptop or an iPhone.

And that is why I tell my students there are immense opportunities in our profession today – provided, with emphasis on the word “provided” -- they maintain the highest professional standards, starting with that most paramount of all standards, Accuracy.

And just as I am optimistic about our profession, from my vantage point as a practitioner and now an educator, I am even more optimistic about the future for our 106 years old National Press Club.

I have been privileged to have been the president of professional organizations in New Delhi, London and Tokyo. With all the objectivity and accuracy at my command, the National Press Club is unique in all that it offers its members, both journalists and communicators, from media training, to unparalleled professional activities and events, and to that very important word, networking.

I would not have begun my second career as an educator were it not for a colleague whom I met at the Club in 2004, soon after returning to the United States. I would not have conducted media training programs and lectured on professional standards in central Asia and Eastern Europe from 2005 to 2007 were it not for another colleague whom I met at the National Press Club.

But the National Press Club is something more; it 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.

That is why I am so pleased we have among many National Press Club members and guests here tonight a large contingent from the diplomatic corps who wanted to attend the Club’s first international inaugural gala.

We hope during the coming year to have many programs of an international theme to emphasize the National Press Club’s global role.

We also will build on our existing strong programs in professional development, conducted through the National Press Club Journalism Institute, and of our unceasing efforts to be vigilant about any curtailment of press freedom or access issues anywhere in the world through our outstanding Freedom of the Press Committee.

In conclusion, I want to thank Jan Du Plain, Frederica Dunn, Gil Klein, Narayan Lakshman and Molly McCluskey of the Inaugural Committee/ Thank you, Jan, for serving as chair, and thank you, Gil, for serving as emcee despite battling laryngitis. I also want to thank our outstanding staff, including Executive Director Bill McCarren; Melinda Cooke, who pulled all the logistics and moving parts of the program together; Executive Chef Susan Delbert, for overseeing a truly international menu from the Tandoori Mixed Grill to the Cleveland, Ohio Dog Pound Apple Pie, and Joann Booze, Pat Nelson, Allyson Cannon, Ruth Mohamed and Jerome King and to all the wait staff who served us so well this evening. And, most importantly, a big thank you to my whole family!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am truly honored to be the 107th president of the National Press Club and pledge to do my utmost to live up to your expectations for 2014.