As the new year arrives in different time zones around the world, it is greeted with singing, dancing, festive meals and ritualized celebrations. Despite the fact that we are each only one day older, the year is new and with it is the promise of a new beginning for all of us. For me, the 2004 new year brings new responsibilities and opportunities to work for you as president of the largest organization of psychologists in the world. I sincerely thank you for the privilege of representing your values, professional concerns and interests to the larger public and for helping to advance psychology.
The new year is also a time for reflection and, of course, resolutions. I cannot even begin to estimate how many resolutions are made worldwide, but surely many of them concern the essential "stuff" of psychology--promises to ourselves and others to lead better and healthier lives. Like millions of others around the world, I am also making resolutions for 2004. I promise to work hard for all members of APA, to be open and honest and to be humble about the mistakes that I will inevitably make as I represent 150,000-plus diverse members with a wide range of interests. And, when appropriate, I also promise to try to add some humor so that we remember that not everything is an "emergency" or "urgent" and, perhaps more importantly, attempt to defuse tensions that have too often gotten in the way of our broadly held goals.
Looking back, and forward
As a child, I was fascinated by the Roman god Janus, the two-headed symbol that used one head to look forward to greet the new year and the other to reflect back on the ones that are now part of our history. In looking back, I am awed to near speechlessness (near is as close as I ever get to that state) at the long line of presidents who served before me, starting with William James and ending most recently with Past-president Robert J. Sternberg. This solemn row of former presidents that march along one wall of the boardroom on the sixth floor of the APA building makes me both humble and proud. It's like looking at an old family album and using the occasion to reflect on the nature of psychology's past, present and future.
As psychologists, we have much to offer the world, but first we need to be sure that the world knows who we are, what we do and why they should value what we do. I believe that we should be spending more time and effort communicating with the consumers of psychology and planning for our future, so we will be prepared to meet its ever-changing demands.
Presidential initiatives for all
I have been developing several initiatives during my year as president-elect that will continue through my presidency. I selected initiatives that are important to virtually all APA members, at least at some point in their careers or private lives. My main initiative concerns the many contemporary changes in work-family interactions (see page 18).
A major social change in the last several decades is the steady increase in the percentage of mothers, especially those with young children, who are employed outside the home. The workforce participation of women is now virtually equal to that of men, a fact that has profound consequences for work and family. In the United States, the average life span has increased by decades over the last 100 years. The boundaries among work, family and education have blurred, with adults working and learning at home and children teaching workplace skills to their parents. Taken together, these changes have created a need for a new model of work that can fit the realities of today's work force. A superb panel of experts is working on data-based recommendations for policy-makers, employers and families. I will bring everyone up-to-date on this initiative in future months.
Other initiatives will also be described in future Monitor columns, including a project to translate materials designed to understand and teach about prejudice and a project to help our own members as they move into retirement.
APA members can look forward to an unforgettable convention in Honolulu this summer. More about that in later columns, but if there are any readers who are still undecided about attending the convention in this tropical paradise, you've been warned: The programs are superb, and the activities are not to be missed. You can register online today at APA's Convention Web site.
Stay tuned. All this and more will be playing soon at a Monitor column in a mailbox near you.