President's Column

I am very pleased to write to you as I begin the year. In this, my first column, I would like to highlight a few priorities, issues and challenges. As most readers know, the APA president has the opportunity to develop initiatives, areas that receive special attention and emphasis. 

  • Violence against women and children.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma in children and adolescents.

  • Psychological science's contributions to the great challenges of society. (e.g., energy conservation, the aging population and health care)

I wanted themes that encompass diverse constituencies within but also outside of our organization. For example, the violence initiative will begin with a summit (Feb. 28-29 in Bethesda, Md.; see, co-sponsored by 17 APA divisions and several organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the International Society for Research on Aggression. The summit brings together diverse interests to determine how we can change policy and public life. Also, I selected themes that connect with activities of APA's directorates-Education, Practice, Public Interest and Science-and its many divisions and therefore build on our multiple strengths.

The initiatives relate to a broader agenda. First, I believe that we should make it a priority to communicate the contributions of psychology, not only to one another but also to the public and policy-makers. There is a need to convey better who we are, what we do and how important it is to society. We can, of course, benefit directly from communicating our goals and accomplishments-such as by securing more research, training and health-care funds. But we should not lose sight of the fact that by reaching out to the public we can also extend our ability to improve life for many people in multiple spheres, including family, work, and interpersonal and international relations.

Communication is always important, so what's new here? Consider the challenges of society, whether in health, aging, early education, conservation and sustainability, computer-human interface or international conflict. Never has the need to address these issues been as great as it is now, and of course psychological science has made advances that can help. In our time of dramatic advances in a number of sciences, we also must deal with constraints on resources and lobby to ensure that we are at all tables where scientific disciplines advance their agendas. There are occasions for silence and quiet reserve; this is not one of them.

Second, diversity, culture and identity also are central to my broader agenda. The commitment of psychology to improving human life is for all cultures and groups. Our work ought to speak to issues that are critical and relevant to the diverse cultural and ethnic groups around the world. Our core topic areas, such as understanding emotion, behavior and cognition, and our priorities of professional responsibility, including training, education and service delivery, require that we consider diversity, culture and identity first, rather than as an afterthought or as representing a special interest.

Third, I am interested in advancing our work in ways that have palpable impact. I confess to being mildly impatient with such activities as raising consciousness, sending messages, making recommendations or producing reports unless we can move the recommendations forward into actions and palpable outcomes that actually help people. Thinking in or out of the box is not the issue; both kinds of thinking end up as little more than a box lunch if we merely consume it ourselves and do not move it forward in a way that leads to action. I have chosen the three initiatives with the intent of doing more than producing reports packed with recommendations that go unread and have no impact. (My own writings have allowed me to be all too familiar with that genre.)

Fourth, I am interested in broad input-yours, actually. I can use your help; perhaps the APA president's best efforts are to mobilize our human resources, identify key directions, build coalitions and otherwise facilitate the conversion of the organization's latent energy into forward movement. APA does so much of this so well already. Please help me to do even more. What can we do to address our own challenges and needs and those of society at large? Both foci will strengthen our organization and profession, and will make a difference in advancing education, science, practice and service.