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The following is a speech given by ASPA member Stephen R. Rolandi during the kick-off event for the New York Metropolitan Chapter’s 2010-2011 program year. Rolandi is a long-time member of the chapter.
Stephen R. Rolandi
This year is a very special year for ASPA’s New York Metropolitan Chapter, as we celebrate the founding of our chapter 70 years ago.
There is something unique about the number 70 and anniversaries.
If one is fortunate to have been married 70 years, one celebrates with gifts of diamonds and platinum.
Many of us who reach the age of 70 are hopefully happily retired, and others look forward to being retired at 70, if not sooner.
And with life expectancy projected in the United States and elsewhere to be in the 90-100 range, 70 is no longer considered old.
There is also some significance to the number 70–this number appears several times in the Torah and the Bible. In the book of Genesis (Genesis 10), there were 70 nations on earth at that time. 70 can also connote strife, and it can also mean unity and togetherness.
There are a lot of meanings, I guess.
But I am here tonight to suggest how we can best celebrate our Chapter’s 70th anniversary.
I want to raise with you four (4) basic questions:
Who are we?
ASPA was established in 1939 as the most prominent, broadly-based professionally oriented association in the field of American public administration.
Its first local chapter was established in 1939 in Chicago; in the following year, local chapters were set up in Sacramento, Richmond, Minneapolis, Washington, DC, and New York City.
National membership at that time was approximately 1,200 and rose to just over 2000 in 1943. The Society was formally incorporated as a national professional and educational organization in 1945.
ASPA drew its membership from those teaching about public administration, those who considered themselves practitioners, as well as students.
We are indeed a broad-based organization:
This list can go on, but I believe what brings us together in ASPA is our sense of public service, and wanting to achieve the public good.
What is our mission?
ASPA is organized to advance and advocate excellence in public service by:
Several major issues played prominent roles in ASPA’s history:
Many of these issues are present today.
Now, let us turn to the history of our chapter…
Where have we gone–what have we accomplished?
The Chapter was founded on the eve of the United State’s entry into World War II. In 1940, the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series, and the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup. Franklin Roosevelt was President of the United States, Herbert Lehman Governor of New York, and Fiorello LaGuardia was Mayor of New York City.
A postage stamp cost 3 cents; average rent was $30.00 a month, and tuition to Harvard was $420.00 a year.
The New York Chapter’s first president was General Brehon B. Somervell, who served as Commanding General of the Army Service Forces in World War II, and was responsible for the Army’s logistics.
Another early chapter president was Albert Pleydell (1943-46) who served as NYC Commissioner under Mayors LaGuardia and O’Dwyer.
A total of 57 men and women have served as president of the New York Metropolitan Chapter, and looking at the roster of these persons shows that our presidents–like the membership of the national association–have come from the ranks of the federal, state, and city (NYC) government, as well as from the major institutions of higher learning.
Some presidents were noted authorities in their field, such as Walter Gellhorn of Columbia University (administrative law).
The Chapter’s first woman president was Nesta Gallas (1971-73); the Chapter’s first African-American president was Trudy Chalmers (1993-94).
Several of our chapter presidents went on to assume national leadership posts in ASPA, among them: Matthias Lukens, Nesta Gallas and Marc Holzer, who served as ASPA National President.
Even more served on ASPA’s National Council, among them: John Fava, Jeanne-Marie Col, Arnold Steigman, Steve Rolandi (that’s me), Michael Gershowitz and William Ciaccio.
Bill, incidentally, holds the record of having served the longest term of any chapter president in the nation (6 years).
The Chapter successfully hosted national and regional conferences in 1980, 1983, 1987 and 1999, and played a major role in the 2001 national conference; successfully instituted a public service awards dinner in honor of Luther Gulick; won coveted chapter awards for programming and newsletters for several years; the list goes on.
Many chapters have looked to the New York Metropolitan Chapter as a model for innovative practices in programming and other local-based activities.
This past year, while many chapters suffered declines in membership, our chapter registered a 20% increase in membership, and now stands as the second largest chapter in the nation. We also completed a successful leadership transition.
Where are we headed?
We are in very challenging, if not perilous times. As a nation, we are slowly coming out of the worst economic recession since the 1930s.
The annual federal budget deficit now exceeds $1 trillion, with a current national debt in the neighborhood of $13 trillion, and rising. China is emerging as the second most powerful economic power in the world.
Most of the states now have severe and prolonged structural budget deficits, and I can go on.
Against this backdrop of current affairs, what would be an appropriate way to celebrate our 70th anniversary?
Let me suggest a couple of things:
These are some of my thoughts as we launch our 70th anniversary year.
Thank you for having me speak to you.
ASPA member Stephen R. Rolandi is deputy commissioner for finance and administration, State of New York and adjunct lecturer of public administration, department of public administration, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Email: [email protected]