Running Commentary

I will remember my 13 and a half years as APA CEO as the most interesting and rewarding years of my life. I have enough memories to last a lifetime.

First and most important, I will remember the thousands of APA Members I have known during these years and the previous years in APA governance. I know I won't remember all of the names--I don't now--but I won't forget how kind and understanding and supportive so many of you have been, whether we've worked together closely for years or just exchanged one quick e-mail message. I like psychologists a lot. They are smart, idealistic, ethical and they do a lot to improve our society and to help others. Being surrounded for years by a sea of psychologists has been a great experience.

I will remember the excitement of being selected to play a significant role in the world's oldest, largest and most influential psychological association. APA gets its share of criticism, and some of the criticism is accurate. An organization with so many people and so much to do sometimes makes mistakes or fails to do something it should have done. There are also no-win situations in which actions that please one group are sure to offend another.

But my experience with APA is that it tries very hard to do the right thing and usually comes pretty close. In such a heterogeneous group of strong-minded people, it sometimes seems surprising that the association doesn't fly into many pieces. But it doesn't. For 110 years, it has remained a fractious but unitary organization. Disagreements have spawned a number of splinter groups over the years, but most have eventually merged back into APA, usually after APA made changes that made it more attractive to them.

I will remember the APA governance system: Wondrously Byzantine, but surprisingly effective. A bright idea by a single Member, if endorsed by a single member of the Council of Representatives, can receive serious attention by a dozen or more boards and committees, detailed discussion by the Board of Directors with staff input, and eventual debate by the Council of Representatives. If it is a big idea that requires changes in the bylaws, every Member of the association has an opportunity to vote it up or down. Not the most efficient way to do business, but democracy never is. Inefficient, but better than the alternatives.

Hundreds of APA Members work as volunteers to do the work of APA on boards, committees, task forces and the Council of Representatives. So many of them have become my lifelong friends, and all of them have made valuable contributions.

I will remember the conventions, which have occupied a week of my life for 45 years. Circuses have three rings with simultaneous acts: We often have 80 or more acts going on at the same time in a dozen different hotels. Many people find that hard to deal with, but keep coming back for more. Whatever one may say about the convention, with 80 choices every hour, it is almost impossible to get bored. Tired, yes, but not bored. In many ways, the convention is the heart of APA. Most people don't talk about going to a convention: They talk about "going to APA." This issue of Monitor is filled with examples of why the convention is so popular, and why so many members keep "going to APA" for decades.

I will remember the wonderful, dedicated APA staff. The executive directors--the heads of the directorates and major offices--are as talented, smart and committed as any group I have ever been associated with. They have been my friends, my family and my support system, some of them for the entire time I have been here. Most weeks, we have met on Tuesday mornings to plan, problem-solve and exchange information, and to make decisions, mostly by consensus, that determine the operation of the central office. We've worked hard to create a healthy workplace in which employees feel valued and respected and know that they can count on being treated fairly. The staff has reciprocated with loyal and dedicated service, sometimes well beyond the call of duty. I hope they know how much I appreciate what they have done to make APA a strong organization. I will tell them once again before I leave.