As part of my desire to increase APA's involvement in international psychology, I travel widely giving plenary addresses and workshops. In recent years, I have been spreading evangelical messages while also learning much from colleagues around the globe--in Singapore, Hong Kong, Okinawa, London, Warsaw, Berlin, Rome, Milan, Thessalonika, Istanbul and Caracas. I usually invite all students in attendance for an informal Q-and-A session. As I write my final presidential column in Acapulco, just after the Mexican Psychological Society Congress, most students wanted to discuss the future of psychology.
My message is simple: You, the students of psychology, are its future. The torch is now being passed to this current generation of students from the "old guard"--the major contributors to our field who were the post-World War II generation of my teachers and my peers. May it burn more brightly than ever with the flames of diversity, and as women in the majority assume new leadership roles.
The vitality of our psychology bursts forth in its ever expanding breadth of domains and its increasingly sophisticated depth of methodologies and exciting technologies. There is no other discipline that studies cellular mechanisms at the micro level and also cultural processes at the molar level of analysis. We reduce the suffering of mental disorders and promote healthy lifestyles. There is nothing of human nature that lies beyond our curiosity to explore and capacity to understand. Most of the urgent problems facing our nation and the world are fundamentally psychological in cause, consequence and correction--especially true for terrorism.
Needed: generalists and specialists, scientists and practitioners
Many of our new students are attracted to applied areas of psychology, with a sense of purpose in being part of a psychology that helps improve the human condition. Others are being trained in ever more refined specializations, such as cognitive neuroscience. Relevance and specialization, though valued, raise the question: Who will become the generalists broadly educated to teach our basic courses, and who will carry on the experimental research tradition? To continue to flourish we need specialists and generalists, "bench scientists," theorists and applied practitioners. But we need something more if our students are to commit many decades of their professional lives to being psychologists.
Blending joy, passion and pride
Students need to discover the many intrinsic joys in the entwined processes of research, teaching and applying psychological knowledge. Those pleasures require much effort at mastery, but come easier when fired by a limitless passion for psychology. As more of us shed the cynic's critical mantle and admit to loving psychology in all its varied forms, there will be an expanded pride in psychology and a shameless pride in being a psychologist. One of our kin, Danny Kahneman, has just won the Nobel Prize (see "Psychologist wins Nobel Prize")--another reason for a communal sharing in that glow of special accomplishment. I call on teachers, supervisors and colleagues to model joy, passion and pride in psychology for those about to inherit the gifts of our incredible discipline.
A fond farewell
Finally, it has been my pleasure to serve as your president this past year. I will continue in APA governance supporting the innovative initiatives of our next president, Bob Sternberg, and our visionary CEO, Norman Anderson. But I shall dearly miss the presence and wisdom of a special friend, Ray Fowler. Ciao.