APA opened its 114th Annual Convention in New Orleans, Aug. 10-13, by paying homage to the residents of its host city, many of whom lost family members, homes, businesses and a great deal more when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast nearly a year before the meeting.
"Much of the human suffering that took place occurred right here in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where the majority of our sessions are now scheduled to take place, in this newly remodeled center that now, in many ways, reflects the rebuilding and rebirth of New Orleans," said APA President Gerald P. Koocher, PhD, before introducing a moment of silence for the city. "It would be easy to forget the tragic images in the news we saw last year, and while we are committed to being part of the rebuilding effort, we do not want to forget those losses."
In fact, he noted, many APA conventioneers and staff were recognizing those losses by participating in myriad rebuilding and volunteer efforts during the convention week ("The hard work of healing"), such as an APA-sponsored Habitat for Humanity project to build a Musician's Village for the upper Ninth Ward, a school supplies drive, and charity performances by Bill Cosby (see "Cosby delivers family wisdom and laughs") for the New Orleans Public Schools and the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band for Habitat for Humanity (see "Jazz for rebuilding").
"APA made a commitment early on to come here, and our local members begged us to come down and make a difference," Koocher added. "And we're here."
Support for the Big Easy
Bringing the convention to New Orleans not only generated volunteers toward rebuilding. The event and its more than 9,500 attendees contributed an estimated $17 million to the local economy by the meeting's end, noted APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD. He went on to recount the deliberation about convening in New Orleans. "When Hurricane Katrina struck...I'm sure none of you thought we'd be sitting in this room today," he said. "The decision to move forward was based on a number of factors, but paramount among them was our belief that the great people of New Orleans would indeed be able to deliver on a promise to provide a safe, welcoming and enjoyable convention experience for our attendees. I believe they have and will continue to deliver on that promise."
Speaking for locals, Louisiana Psychological Association President James W. Quillin, PhD,added a heartfelt thanks to APA and his fellow psychologists for coming.
"There were lots of reasons why it wasn't a good idea, and no one would have blamed you if you elected not to come," he said. "But we needed you, and you came." He thanked the many members from around the country who volunteered throughout the year in local shelters and helped local psychologists find new jobs and office space after the storm. Quillin also recognized several APA groups and state psychological associations who donated time and money to help the Louisiana Psychological Association get back on its feet post-Katrina. He concluded by encouraging members to become ambassadors for Louisiana tourism: "Tell people back home that New Orleans is ready to see them again."
Louisiana's Lt. Gov. Mitchell Landrieu echoed Quillin's sentiment. "We are going to require a lot more of your help....The people in the state of Louisiana are hurting," said Landrieu. "I don't think we can ever underestimate the power of hope and the need for people to see that tomorrow is going to be better than today."
Koocher then informed attendees that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had declared the week of the convention "Psychology Week" in the city of New Orleans.
Children and families
Koocher also presented the APA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology to E. Mavis Hetherington, PhD, a University of Virginia emeritus psychology professor who served on the editorial boards of many APA journals and conducted trailblazing research on the effects of divorce, single-parenting and step-parenting on children's development. Hetherington shared details of how she entered psychology haphazardly. English was her first choice, but the class she most wanted wasn't being offered. "So I stomped off to the psychology department and said, 'Here you are, you lucky people!' and that was my career planning," said Hetherington. "I never regretted my choice; I have enjoyed everything I have done in psychology."
She thanked her husband and three sons for their support, her mentors for their career guidance, the influence of eminent child psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, and her research participants.
"I owe a lot to the hundreds of families who let us go into their homes, who revealed their thoughts, their hopes, their conflicts, their difficulties, their fears and their aspirations to us-many over several decades," she said.
The evening concluded with a performance by actress, playwright and New York University professor Anna Deavere Smith, who is known for her unique one-woman shows that blend social commentary, journalism and performance art. On stage, Smith recreated a variety of interviews she's done with people from all walks of life-including historian Studs Terkel, a bull rider, an oncologist, the head of a South African orphanage and a New Orleans trumpet player-around an apt theme of loss, resilience and hope.
For more information on Anna Deavere Smith, see the March 2006 Monitor .