An honor and a lesson
A rabbi, a state senator, a county commissioner, a nonprofit CEO, two retired school administrators, three professional communicators.
Those were the accomplished, kindhearted people who wrote endorsements for my nomination for the National Federation of Press Women’s prestigious Communicator of Achievement Award. And then there was Sandy Graham, former Wall Street Journal and Rocky Mountain News reporter, who caringly assembled such a laudatory nomination packet that I cried when I read it.
Truth be told, I had to be convinced to accept the nomination for the 2023 award. I had been nominated for the national honor by my Colorado colleagues more than once, years ago. I had attended the national conferences where I was recognized as a state winner though never earning the national award. It was someone else’s turn, I argued.
Then Sandy Nance, Colorado Press Women president and a dear longtime friend, called on the phone to convince me. “We really think you should be our nominee this year. Will you please consider it?”
I thought about my Mussar (Jewish ethics) practice: honor those who want to honor you. So I reluctantly accepted the nomination with a goal of practicing grace and gratitude. Colorado Press Women recognized me as the state honoree at a lovely ceremony during our spring meeting, and my gift of wine glasses has been put to good use!
The next step was the national competition. When the organization’s electronic newsletter arrived in my inbox, I read the impressive bios of the other nominees. “No way am I winning the national award this year. Once again I will disappoint my Colorado colleagues who put so much time and effort into my nomination,” I thought.
Yet I was excited about attending the conference in Cincinnati and reconnecting with the many friends I have made from across the nation. For 45 years I have enjoyed the company of this talented group of communicators as we learned together, met national dignitaries and experienced memorable adventures in such diverse locations as Baton Rouge, Idaho Falls, Seattle, Williamsburg, Wilmington, the Outer Banks and many more.
Before the official conference began, we took a tour of the impressive Underground Railroad Museum, and I was awed by the courage of the women and men escaping from slavery as well as those who helped rescue them. The next evening, after business meetings and honoring longtime members, we had a welcome reception and a trivia contest. My team won! I silently wondered if it was good sign for the big award… or maybe not.
Friday night was the Communicator of Achievement awards banquet. I donned my fancy blue cocktail dress and, for good luck, a necklace and earrings inherited from my mother and selected for the event by my granddaughter. I sat at a table with my Colorado Press Women friends and tried (unsuccessfully) not to drip any food on my frilly sleeves as I ate dinner. I was hardly able to savor the rich, sweet taste of the tiramisu, usually one of my favorite desserts.
Then Karen Stensrud, the tireless, dedicated national Communicator of Achievement chair, called all the nominees up to the front of the banquet hall. She made us feel so special, introducing each of us and talking about our careers and our accomplishments while big screens displayed fun family photos we had provided. Mine included ziplining, horseback riding and my puppies.
We then returned to our seats, so we didn’t have to face the audience when the award winners were announced. Karen revealed the winners by describing their careers first. Runner-up was Nebraska’s amazing Barb Batie, a talented journalist and photographer, farmer and volunteer extraordinaire. My hopes were dashed. “That’s it,” I thought. “No way I’m going to be the first-place winner; there are others more accomplished who have done so much for the organization.”
Then Karen started outlining the work history of the 2023 Communicator of Achievement. After she read just one sentence, I came to the unexpected realization that she was describing me!! I got teary as I walked to the stage to accept the honor. I ignored my notes, forgetting most of what I had planned to say, as I talked about what the organization had meant to me over my decades as a member – how much I had grown as a writer and a person thanks to this amazing group of women (and a few good men).
Though the awards ceremony was two weeks ago and I have the necklace and certificate to prove it, I still can’t quite believe I was selected for this honor. And once again, I turn to Mussar to reflect on the traits that I was able to practice through this process:
Humility for being chosen for NFPW’s highest award from an auspicious group of fellow nominees.
The honor of joining this “club” of women recognized as the Communicator of Achievement over the last 66 years. I have known and admired a great number of them, including previous national winners from Colorado, Kathy Piper, Dr. Joanne Arnold, Barbara Gigone and Sandy Nance.
Grace by accepting my colleagues’ nomination rather than rejecting their desire to honor me.
Trust in my friends’ confidence in me and that “for everything there is a season,” even awards!
And most of all there is deep and abiding gratitude. Receiving the award was so much more than a tribute to my career and volunteer activities. It was a testament to the persistence of those who had faith in me and to the talented friends who took the time to contribute to my nomination. Thank you!