Our 2005 AIA Leadership and
Legislative Conference titled “Grassroots” began
with a well known quote from Yogi Berra, “If you
don’t know where you’re going, you might end up
someplace else.” Earlier that morning, over packed
and sleepy, I made my way into Penn Station at
6:30am on Wednesday February 9th. As my
first Grassroots conference I was looking forward to
learning where AIA is going, and to help bring that
message to Capitol Hill.
Unknowing that our Chapter
President and myself were sitting in the “quiet”
car, we were scolded while trying to strategically
plan our Chapter’s future. Fear not, there was to
be plenty of time in between seminars, general
sessions, regional and peer group meetings, working
breakfasts, networking dinners, and post dinner “bar
talk”, for Adolph Orlando, AIA, Valerie Brown, Hon,
AIA and myself to make the most of this worthwhile
I knew I would enjoy the
conference when our National Leadership early in the
week quoted one of my favorite authors, Dr. Seuss.
Reading excerpts from “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”.,
we were advised that “ ..On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far, and face up to your
problems, whatever they are.” We were further
assured with “…And will you succeed? Yes! You will
indeed! 98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.”
At AIA National headquarters
our day began with a brief history of Architecture
in America. We learned that in1800 Benjamin Latrobe
helped give this part time pastime respect. Then
in1857 Richard Upjohn along with 12 others founded
the AIA in New York City. For a wonderful history
about Architects in America read “From Craft to
Profession” by Mary N. Woods.
AIA has built three teams to
help serve our members, advance our value, and
improve the quality of the built environment. They
are Advocacy, Knowledge and Community. I have been
an AIA member since 1989 and did not realize all
the benefits our national chapter offers our
membership. Under the Advocacy team, you’ll find
AIArchitect, AIA/J, AIA.org, AIA Trust, AIA
Advantage, AIA Bookstore, AIA Media Relations and
Archiwire. The Knowledge team bring to us eClassroom,
Contract Documents, Conventions, CES, Grassroots,
AIA Library and Archives, and AIA Publishing (which
includes the Handbook of Professional Practice, and
the numerous design guides and reviews). The
Community team manages the Young Architects Forum,
National Associates Committee, Large Firm
Roundtable, College of Fellows and the Cornerstone
Partners. The Center for Communities by Design
shares information, manages the Design Assistance
Teams, and coordinates the Disaster Assistance
program. Component Relations and Membership
Services also have dozens of programs and
initiatives that serve our profession. Visit the
AIA.org website for more information on any of the
above and take advantage of what AIA does for you -
Preparation for our joint
lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill were extremely
well coordinated. Prior to our trip to DC, emails
and snail mails were received outlining AIA’s
national legislative agenda. A conference call to
discuss this agenda was made the previous Monday.
In Washington, information and training were
provided. Expert consultants presented our top ten
issues, only several of which were we to introduce
to our senators, and representatives. Our strategy
was to push a top priority that was believed to be
“ripe” for action. The strategy worked. 800
architects advancing “on the Hill” created a buzz.
A barrage of phone calls by legislators asking
about the Portman Jefferson Bill and how to
co-sponsor it was the immediate result of our
efforts. The real work would be in the days and
months ahead following up on our efforts in our home
states and districts.
Our leaders reminded us our
first amendment right (if not our duty) to ‘petition
our government.’ We were told of our past failings
to succeed on the national stage and in our home
states. Our PAC dollars pale compared to the
national averages for associations like ours.
Overshadowed by groups like doctors, lawyers, and
realtors, our task is made tougher.
We learned how to pronounce
sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary
of AIA upcoming in 2007. We also learned that our
State President Barbara Mishara, State Executive
Director Barbara Rodriguez, and writer of this
article are half Lithuanian. Not particularly
useful unless we plan to expand to AIA Lithuania.
To summarize I’ll pay homage to Seuss and end by
Grassroots and top roots were
names thrown about.
Strategies and agenda from the
hill we should shout.
The first amendment says
petition we must.
Tell our leaders our mission,
in their hands we trust.
While politics as a word has
more letters than four.
To many of us, it’s a term we
The process to some may seem
To this optimistic observer the
sense was more awe.
Faults one can find with this
system are fact.
Slow to improve frustrates some
not to act.
Yet petition we must and vote
we must do too.
For if you do not someone else will do it for you.