2005 PBS Development Conference
San Diego, CA
October 7, 2005
Thank you, Pat.
Before I start, and in the area of over-sharing, I really wanted you to know that when I say I am happy to be with you today, it is not just rhetoric.
Last Saturday my daughter was married. It was a beautiful ceremony on the shores of Lake Tahoe -- cold and windy Lake Tahoe. I was warned that it could get cold, but I'm from Brooklyn and I don't do weather, so I thought how cold could it get? It got very cold. Hence my cold. But we made a decision that it would be better for me to show up and annoy you with this voice than not come at all.
First, I want to give you a bit of background because there has been so much media -- and it just doesn't stop. Sometimes, I wonder who they are writing about.
I wanted to serve as CEO of CPB because of two things: first, I have been a long time fan of public broadcasting, both as a listener and as a viewer. Second, because I believe that public broadcasting's greatest strength -- what really sets it apart from every other form of media -- is its ability to connect to community, at a time when we need that connection more than ever -- at a time when we have to strengthen that connection.
I want to be that advocate, working with all of you -- the people who make that connection -- telling public broadcasting's story every day. All of you have, as I do, a very deep commitment to the mission of public broadcasting -- television and radio. I have to say that, in the short time that I have been president of CPB, I have been impressed with the depth of your commitment -- and with the breadth of CPB's activities to support that commitment.
Although officially, I am new to public broadcasting, my informal involvement began a when I was a student at American University in Washington, D.C. and I interned at WAMU. Later, when I wrote my first book, America's New Women Entrepreneurs, I felt I had really hit the big time when I was interviewed by Diane Rehm on her show, and later, Charlie Rose.
Then, fast forward to when my children were small. We, of course, watched Sesame Street together, and the impact of that program really hit me when my daughter Courtney -- the one that just got married -- came in to say that she had written the letter "L" with my lipstick on her bedroom wall because Big Bird told her to. Years later, the entire family was hooked on Masterpiece Theatre, Sunday night appointment television.
I don't know how many of you remember Dial Magazine, but I wrote an article for Dial lamenting the fact that my kids were watching so much Masterpiece Theatre they were beginning to speak with English accents, and were upset our house did not resemble the one in Upstairs Downstairs. In fact, we had no upstairs.
And to continue this connection, I believe my son's foray into, albeit commercial, television -- as the director of a science show called The Know Zone for KRON -- where he earned an Emmy -- was sparked by hours and hours of watching Monty Python.
Another connector for me is that my mission at CPB is not unlike the mission I had at the State Department where I ran a bureau comprising hundreds of people -- civil servants and foreign service officers -- managing 30,000 non-partisan educational, professional and cultural exchanges every year. To do this, we worked with 1500 public private organizations, and 80,000 volunteers.
I believe that our exchanges succeeded because we treated people with respect -- and this non-partisan, non-political orientation was a key element of that respect. This is really similar to the role of public broadcasting, where we treat our viewers and listeners with respect -- as citizens first and not as consumers. This is just one of the reasons I am committed to protecting the nonpartisan, independent nature of public broadcasting. My goal is to strengthen public broadcasting and that is my only agenda.
Now, the 1967 legislation, which created CPB, instructed that it be free of political or government interference and that it represent a diversity of views. Believe me, after you have run 120,000 exchanges for almost four years from every country in the world -- encompassing every race, every religion, every ethnicity, every economic and political background -- you are very comfortable with a diversity of views, and in fact, you really welcome them.
Because of my experience at the State Department, I am more convinced than ever of the crucial role public broadcasting has to play -- in fact must play -- to inform, educate, inspire, elevate and sometimes just plain help -- when help is not forthcoming from any other place.
You are closely connected to community; you and the stations you represent deliver on public broadcasting's promise every single day. We at CPB -- the wonderful people I work with -- know that and we are committed to doing everything within our power to help you become stronger, more important institutions within your community.
Next week, I will have the opportunity of meeting with officials at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. I am looking forward to this because it gives me an opportunity to once again affirm the need for continued funding of public broadcasting. I will underscore this theme of public broadcasting as connected to community and a convener of community interests at every level.
I have to say to those of you who do this every single day, that when I talk to people about public broadcasting and I really get into the depths of what you do, the response I hear over and over again is, "I didn't know that." So we have to change that.
I will tell them about CPB's research which lets us know what our public television viewers want and about the opportunity fund -- which is designed to build on that research -- and which will soon make its very first grant ever for new episodes of Masterpiece Theatre.
I will also be able to talk about CPB's commitment to investing in the education of our successor generation -- our nation's young people.
You know the research -- it underscores the importance of early childhood learning -- and it affirms how positive and powerful an influence public television and the work of public television stations can be in the learning process.
We are delighted that we are working closely with PBS, creating a new kind of Ready to Learn program. I am very excited about this work, which will lead to programming that measurably improves the reading performance of children from low-income families. Four million dollars of ready to learn funds will be used to conduct community outreach in concert with PBS and your stations. I believe that efforts like these will help your stations strengthen their connections to community -- and give you the stories you need to tell to your potential donors -- and make your jobs easier.
I am particularly committed to helping you reach those diverse publics -- those people who say, "I didn't know that" -- in a sustainable way; telling the compelling story of how public television reaches into communities to impact lives on so many different levels every single day.
In the last several weeks as hurricanes ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi and then hit Texas, what was underscored is that in the midst of a disaster of this proportion, the most important initial public service is information.
And public broadcasting came through with hours and hours of emergency broadcasting and heroic reporting. And because public broadcasting has the deepest roots and most extensive relationships within their communities -- those assets, combined with a long tradition of public service, helped to save lives.
But what I found most amazing and most moving -- and it is still going on now -- is the way that all of you -- local stations -- put aside your own fundraising and urged your audiences to help the victims of Katrina and Rita.
If there ever was a time to recognize the extraordinary value of public television and radio, it is now. You are connected to our communities as few other institutions are. Locally owned, locally controlled, locally funded, you know your communities. You know the needs of people in your areas, and you are reaching out to address those needs.
I had a letter right after -- in fact during -- the hurricane from Sister Donna Gunn, who is a nun in Mississippi -- and this is a quote: "I am sitting here thinking how blessed I am to experience nothing more than a power outage during Katrina. I am also thanking God for you. Your coverage of this disaster has been wonderful. Not only is it the only link with the outside world, it is also by far the most practical, most helpful disaster relief help available to the people. I can ill afford this donation (which was fifty dollars), but I can think of no better way to express my gratitude."
Can't do better than a nun saying "Thank you."
But we do not need a force of nature to prove the value of public television. People across the country tell us how valuable it is every single day. Monica Revilla-Amador sent us an e-mail about how she learned English from Sesame Street after coming to the United States from Cuba as a small child. She is a special education teacher -- "living proof," she says, "that kids of all different backgrounds need shows like Sesame Street."
Then there are shows like The Forgetting, which, through its extensive outreach program helped thousands of families struggling with the impact of Alzheimer's disease. I just wish that a program like this had been available to my mother and my family when my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1979, because no one was talking about it, you couldn't find out anything about it, and you truly didn't know who to turn to.
This is the kind of impact public broadcasting has in communities around the country every day. And that is the story that each and every one of you -- and all the people at CPB -- want to help tell whether we work in development or in another part of the system.
Let me say, I know who you are. I have more than a working knowledge of fundraising. I started the National Women's Economic Alliance, an organization for women to help them achieve as entrepreneurs and within corporate America. Most of my time was spent talking to corporate executives making the case for their support for sustainable funding for this effort.
And then again, in my role as acting undersecretary for Public Diplomacy at the Department of State, I initiated a private sector program to help fund American corners around the world.
Through another program we created called Partnerships for Learning and Citizen Connect, my team worked with international leaders on the long-term benefits that accrue to their communities and countries when average citizens have a chance to strengthen their communities.
So I know the importance of a great message. And I know a great message when I hear one. And believe me, we have a great message:
Public broadcasting connects communities to make a real difference in people's lives. CPB's Major Giving Initiative has drummed home one big point: that people who make significant donations give not to public broadcasting per se, but through public broadcasting to their communities. And through it, stations have worked to develop ways to tell their own stories about how they help those communities.
When CPB launched the Major Giving Initiative, under the leadership of Robert Altman, he pushed us to think about how stations really operated in real time, in the real world, and how they needed to change to be successful. Under the guidance of Kay Sprinkel Grace, the Major Giving Team designed one of the most extensive, most innovative projects that CPB has ever undertaken.
We offered every station in the system the opportunity to participate -- to work with Kay and others to develop a major giving plan that was tailored to your station's individual needs and to your community.
We laid out a Web-based curriculum, arranged conference calls, created a dedicated Web site where you could share information, and guaranteed on-site consulting services to implement the plans. We asked for station involvement at the highest levels -- general managers, board members, and other station leaders. And today, all 110 of the participating stations have "graduated" from their on-line classes, and are working to implement their major giving plans.
In my mind, that is sustainable success.
Let me quickly hit a few highlights: a $1 million gift to Nashville Public Television-the biggest gift in the station's history; a 100 percent increase in major giving at WXXI in Rochester, NY -- and a single gift of $100,000 to establish a programming endowment; at Pioneer Public Television, a coordinated focus on major and planned gifts in every communication form at the station's disposal resulted in a gift of $100,000 -- again the largest individual gift in Pioneer's 40-year history.
At CPB, we couldn't be more pleased with the degree of participation in the major giving initiative -- and with the success you are having. And the upshot is that we want to keep the momentum going. The Board of Directors of CPB has asked me to announce that the major giving initiative will have a second phase -- and maybe a third or fourth. Robert Altman is going to be talking about it at one of this afternoon's concurrent sessions, so I will just hit the high points for now.
Our plan is to help stations that have already participated sustain the gains they have made, and to reach stations that were not able to take part with the valuable information we have developed. In the next few months, we are going to reconvene the regional meetings that kicked off the major giving initiative. Members of the station community -- both station and board leadership -- will come together to focus on sustainability -- ways in which we can work together to ensure that major giving remains a central focus as we move forward.
Now, to help stations that were not able to participate -- and to make sure that new staff at participating stations can benefit -- we are going to create a self-directed curriculum that people can follow on their own. Finally, and most important, we are extending our commitment to on-site consulting so the good work already underway will continue.
Although providing this kind of consulting service is a very big investment, we believe this is exactly what CPB should be doing -- giving you the tools you need to tell your stories to your communities.
I would like to play a very active role in this initiative, so we are working hard across-the-board to make this happen. I enjoy fundraising -- and let me tell you why. When I believe in a mission, I believe that I am communicating to people who may not know that they have an opportunity to do something that is going to enhance their lives.
I don't feel that I am imposing on them because I know I am giving them an opportunity to be involved in making their own community better. In this case, there are so many people out there, just as I was, who really didn't understand how they could be connectors to community through public broadcasting.
And we can reach them. And at the end of the day, they are going to be very grateful to all of you that you asked them to be part of something that is so important at a time when we all need to be connected to one another. We need to tell that story over and over again to different publics who may not have a real, in depth, understanding of the reach of public television. We can't assume that everybody knows.
I really welcome the opportunity to visit with your stations. Put me to work -- not just to walk through and point out where the coffee is -- although I am not averse to that -- but to get your donors together where we can have a conversation one-on-one or in larger groups. It does not matter to me -- you decide.
I look forward to working with each of you -- building stronger, safer, smarter communities through the public media -- and this is the group that is going to do it because at the end of the day, we want this connector on a national level.