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Board of Directors

President's Message

President's Address by Tami Smith, RPR, CPE

Friday, August 10, 2011
NCRA Opening Premier Session

Thank you.  I want to thank each of you here in this room today and I want to thank everyone who works within our great profession because when it comes to all of the great things that we can do together as a profession, as a family, it really does take each and every one of us working together, pushing in the same direction.  I would also like to thank some people who are here today to share in this moment with me.  I know my family is well represented here today, thank you for being here.  Thank you, Carol, for giving up part of your well deserved vacation to install me.  Thank you for "asking" me to volunteer for MAPCR years ago, more than once, and getting me started on association service by inspiring me.  And most of all thank you for your deep and abiding friendship.  Two people traveled a very long distance to share this moment with me.  A long time ago on a beach in Florida, Bear and I met some fellow kite flyers from Hamburg, Germany.  Over the years, we've traveled to each other's homes and enjoyed many moments of laughter, love and tears.  I am thrilled to have my sister and brother of my heart here today, Karen and Torsten Bieniek. 

Three years ago, when we assembled as a group in Washington, D.C. for our convention, our association, our profession, was in a state of turmoil and flux, caught in the grips of a battle between two camps within NCRA who had differing viewpoints on the future of our profession and our association.  Two years ago in Chicago, the Board laid out a year long process entitled Writing Our Future that we hoped would allow us to have an important discussion about the future without the rancor that had characterized the fighting that had taken place a year earlier.  The findings from that process were unveiled last year when we met in Las Vegas. 

Among the findings from Writing Our Future was a bottom line promise and commitment to members from the Board and from NCRA that we would remain an association that certain.  And advances the interests of stenographic court reporters on an exclusive and unapologetic basis. 

But Writing Our Future was a lot more than that.  It was a candid and frank discussion about the future of our profession.  And embedded within the direction we have chosen to take as an organization is not a blind eye cast toward the challenges we face from alternative technologies.  Embedded within the direction we have chosen is a commitment for each of us as professional court reporters to do everything we can to improve ourselves, to do what we can to differentiate ourselves from the alternatives.  We need to take our game to another level, folks.  And that is why I chose the theme that I did for this year's convention.  Dream.  Believe.  Inspire. 

It all starts with the dream.  For me, my dream to become a stenographic court reporter was all started by the love of my life, Richard "Bear" Smith.  It was Bear who first suggested that I become a court reporter and who stood by patiently as I was anything but patient as I endured the frustrations of court reporting school.  It was Bear who supported and encouraged me to complete the dream by running for the NCRA Board.  I stand here before you today as President of NCRA because of a dream.  But also because of the love and support that I received from Bear Smith.  That is why it is particularly tragic for me to get to this point in my life and my career and not have Bear by my side to share this moment. 

Earlier this year, we lost Bear.  I say that "we" lost Bear because that is exactly the case.  When I called this profession a family earlier, I did so deliberately.  When Bear passed away back in January, my world flipped inside out and upside down and came to a sudden, screaming, screeching halt at the edge of an abyss of missing him and life as I knew it for almost 28 years.  It was as if suddenly being told I had to learn to breathe under water.  I didn't know how I was going to get through it.  I knew that I had a lot of friends.  And I knew that I had a support network that would help me out. 

But what I wasn't prepared for was the outpouring of support that came from all corners of our profession.  Your thoughts made their way to me by mail, email, text messages, and by hundreds of comments and prayers posted on my Facebook wall.  They were manifested by the physical presence of many of you who came from near and father during those dark days in January.  And they arrived to me through monetary donations made in Bear's name to the national court reporters foundation.  Literally thousands of dollars that was so much more than money, but a demonstration of how a family does everything it can when one of its members needs them.  It simply would not have been possible for me to be standing up here in front of you six months after Bear passed if it were not for my real family, my work family, my friends and my court reporting family. 

But that dream that Bear instilled within me needs to be flamed and cultivated in many, many more court reporting students.  One of the lessons of Writing Our Future was that we need to be doing more as an association to encourage more young people to discover our great profession.  And what I pledge to you is that this effort will take on even greater significance while I am President.  Everything about our future:  The number of court reporters, the number of members, the service we provide to our clients, relies upon a new generation of stenographic court reporters stepping forward to share in the dream.  That is our future.  And we must pursue it with reckless abandon. 

Dreams have multiple phases.  For some of you students out there, the dream is to become a successful court reporter.  For the rest of us, the dream is about what lies ahead for us:  Growing a business, seizing that new career opportunity, attaining that elusive certification.  If Bear taught me anything, dreams are simply words if you don't go out and get them.  He always used to say:  Dreamers are good but show me the doers. 

One of the primary lessons from Writing Our Future that cannot be repeated often enough is that the primary difference between steno and other methods for capturing the record is:  Realtime.  This is what we’re hearing from the marketplace … this is what you, the NCRA members, are telling us … and this is the reality we are facing.  For stenographic court reporters to enjoy the best, most solid possible future, each and every one of us need to be realtime capable. What holds reporters back so often when it comes to realtime is their fear, their fear to make a change in the way they do things, their fear in allowing others to see their errors, and their fear in hooking up in a deposition or courtroom. To erase that fear, we must believe we can.

That is why TRAIN, Taking Realtime Awareness and Innovation Nationwide, has become so important to all of us and must be an unparalleled success. It is together, as a profession, as a family, that, when it comes to realtime, we are ensuring that the demands of the future are being addressed today.

A great deal is spoken about service within our profession and in society in general … so much so that the impact of the word sometimes is lost.  But in a world where technology always promises something new around the corner that can replace a human being with a machine or a piece of software … one of our absolute points of distinction is service.

Be honest, we court reporters can be our own worst enemy by being unwilling to provide the level of service that justifies the associated expense.  When it comes to ensuring that our profession has the greatest possible future, we need to get inspired to provide the highest level of service to our clients, paying types of clients or not. The service we provide helps to form the reputation that we have as a profession. We need to inspire ourselves to do better and to take the next steps in our business or our careers.

Not only that, but we need to inspire the next generation of students. We need to ignite them with interest and passion to pursue this great profession. We need to inspire innovation and the applications of our skills and new ideas.
The God’s honest truth is that I came up with the theme for this year’s Convention in the days immediately before Bear’s death. And in the weeks and months that have followed, I could not be more glad that these are the words that I chose for the theme. Because whether by coincidence or divine providence, they are the words I have come to live by ever since. You, the court reporting community, my family, provided me with strength and support during the time that I needed it the most.  Now, as I assume the position of NCRA President, I am going to return the favor by providing you with the highest level of leadership and inspiration that I am capable of.  Let’s continue to work on making NCRA a great association and on making all of our dreams a reality. Together, let's go forward: let's dream, let’s believe in those dreams, and let’s inspire everyone who is served or touched by our profession.
Thank you.