April 2021 International President's Address

 

Transcription of video above:

Years ago, when I joined the Board, I have to tell you, I didn't know what to expect.  I was in B2B, in Virginia and an at large member. I didn't even have a local chapter to lean on. But I was grateful for all the people who were very welcoming to me. And as much as I appreciated those early efforts, I have to say that the magic really started when I started hitting the local chapters.

I started with WIPA Atlanta and I remember being terrified that they were going to ask me questions, and I would just keep saying, “I don't know. I don't know.” And that did happen but I have to say they were very gracious about it. I visited San Francisco and they kindly let me bring my husband along. And he felt like he made a million friends in the room.

I can tell you that my most recent trip, which sadly was February of last year, I went to WIPA Utah for the SOP’s. I get there, and by the time I had left, I felt like I had made friends with literally every single person who attended- not just the Board, but everybody who had attended the meeting.

But here's the thing. Those are my experiences. That's not everybody's experience. If there's anything I've learned in the last year, it’s that not everyone's felt welcome. Not everyone has felt heard. Not everyone has felt accepted.

And as our WIPA President, I can tell you, I take that very seriously. I take full responsibility that we need to continue to do better. I want everybody to feel the way that I have over the last many years.

Because here's the thing – we're heading into recovery. It's going to be different for every state, every chapter, and I get that. But things are opening up a little bit more and people are being vaccinated. Some events are starting to happen.

But we can't just flip a switch and expect everything to be the way it was. Things are different. We have different cash flows, different staffing. The couples might still, unfortunately, be the same from a couple of years ago, but they’ve changed. They're stressed out. Their dates have changed a million times. They have people who aren't going to attend anymore. Their event looks different than when they first got engaged.

It's all very precarious, and I would contend that we need to lean on each other now more than ever. That's why it's incredibly important to me that of all the things that we're focused on this year, and let me tell you, we are keeping busy behind the scenes, that inclusion, that feeling welcomed is a priority.  If somebody wants to come and call WIPA home, they need to feel comfortable to do so.

It starts with me. If you have ever felt that you were not someone who felt accepted when you came to an event or you didn't feel listened to, you have my sincerest apologies and the commitment that we are working to do better.

I know I always say this, but my door truly is open. You can contact me any time. People will tell you- reach out to me, let me know. I want to do better. We want to do better. I want you to feel the way I have for all of these years.

But it's not just about me. It's going to take all of us. If you are a chapter leader, if you are a committee member, anybody in leadership. Check in with the people who are new this year to the Board, who are new this year to committees, and see how they're doing.

It's April and we fall into a groove, for better or for worse. And sometimes that's not a good thing. We just assume everyone's caught up and ready to go. Don't do that. Check in with a- How are you? What can I help you with?

If you're one of the chapters that are starting to open up, keep an eye out.  Because this is what's going to happen. We're going to be so excited that we're together again and we're going to run up to all of our friends.  But we have to keep an eye out for everybody. People have been furloughed. They've changed jobs. They've entered the market. We need to do our due diligence. We need to keep an eye out for people and to welcome them. We all need each other right now. Now, I would say more than ever.

I want to thank the immediate past presidents who have stepped in to be mentors to our chapters in formation, helping them feel more welcomed. I want to continue to thank the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, under Cindy Celis, who has made great strides already this year. I know you'll get to read her updates and see what they've been up to as well.

We all have to do our part. We need to look to what has happened, we need to take responsibility for it, and we need to commit to do better.

Because here's the thing. Even if ninety-five percent of us have had my kind of experiences- if we have five percent, if we have two percent, if we've three percent of people who don't feel that way, then we haven't done our job entirely yet, have we?

Now, I'm going to end on an anecdote that I don't share often. In fact, I almost never share. This came up recently when I was speaking with someone who used to be on the Board, someone who was a former member. And we were chatting and I shared this and I feel inclined to share it today.

Here's the thing. I spoke at the beginning about how I was first introduced to the Board, but most people don't know that that's not the first time I was introduced to WIPA. I actually I was introduced to WIPA many, many, many years before that- so many years ago, I can't even remember how long ago it was.

But I was at an industry conference. I was walking through the trade show and there was a WIPA booth. And so I walk up and express an interest in learning more. And I don't know what it was about that moment, but I'll be honest, I was kind of blown off from it. And, to this day, I don't know if it was me, if it was the moment, if the person was busy. Maybe someone was having a bad day. But it was not the most positive experience. I didn't go and join WIPA immediately.

But I have to tell you this. When Brit reached out, and when Kevin reached out to me and asked me about WIPA, I'm so glad that I listened to them.

I'm so glad that I trusted that they wanted to be a part of an organization that was ready to move forward- that was different than what it was from my experience all those years ago.

I mean, I think about it now. I think about it a lot. It takes my breath away. When I think about how much WIPA has impacted my life, I think about all of the people. I wouldn't know if it wasn't for WIPA. And I'm so grateful every single day that I gave it the chance. That I recognize that people can change, that things can change, and that we can head in the right direction together. And so, here's the thing- even though I've had all those great experiences, it also doesn't mean that the bad experience didn't happen.

But I can say that WIPA has continued to change and proud to be a part of this organization, and I want to do better for all of us.

So I want to thank everybody out there. I want to wish them well and thank them for their support and wish them well as they head into the wedding season, as they head into whatever this recovery is.

And as always, my virtual door is always open. Please do not hesitate to reach out.  Until next time, please take care.