Click here for our latest virtual program from this month’s presenter – Julie O’Neil: PRSA COVID 19 Presentation O’Neil.
Written by: Jeff Rodriguez, Historian
These are unprecedented times, which call for extraordinary actions – including another pandemic-themed column. This month, we present some random notes on our nation’s history with economic and health crises. Depending upon your perspective, this will either make you feel much better about our current situation or much worse. Either way, it might add a little historical perspective for PR pros as we advise their clients.
– From 1636 to 1698, Boston endured six epidemics of smallpox. The one in 1721 was so bad that most people fled the city.
– The country’s first significant financial crisis began in 1785. Four more followed quickly, and 16 of the next 25 years would be marked by economic turmoil.
– In 1835, the Bank of Maryland collapsed. Citizens, convinced they had been scammed, attacked the houses of the bankers. The state militia was called out, killing some 20 people and wounding many more.
– In 1837, the Great Plains suffered through a smallpox epidemic, one of several that contributed to the decimation of the Native Americans. That same year, the Panic of 1837 occurred.
– The Panic of 1837 was horribly misnamed. In fact, the recession lasted for about seven years, during which time more than a third of the banks failed, millions of people were unemployed, and civil unrest was widespread. The difficult time is more accurately summed up by the historian’s book titled, “America’s first Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political and Disorder after the Panic of 1837.”
– 1837 also saw the Flour Riot, and no, it was not any fun.
– There have been multiple cholera epidemics around the world and in the U.S. Groups held responsible for starting the various outbreaks include Jews, gypsies, Indians, Filipinos, the Irish and the poor. Some American scientists blamed African Americans for causing cholera, while Tunisians blamed Europeans. Whoever was to blame, President Polk is believed to have died from it, along with millions of others.
– The Panic of 1873 lasted about four years, with the New York Stock Exchange closing for 10 days.
– Yet another panic occurred in 1893, again lasting about four years. In some states, the unemployment rate topped 25 percent, and the supply of gold reserves fell so low that J.P. Morgan had to give the government a bailout.
– The big picture: If you were born in1835 and lived to be 65, you would have lived through 16 recessions.
– Although smallpox has largely been eliminated in the U.S., there have been numerous epidemics. The last major domestic event occurred in Boston between 1901-1903, and had an estimated a 17 percent fatality rate.
– In 1920, Edith Wharton published what many consider to be her masterpiece, a book about the flu pandemic of 1918. It was titled, “The Age of Innocence.”
– In 1929, the Great Depression – ah, never mind.
– From 1949 to 1960, there were four recessions. Although the 1960 one was brief, Nixon, who was vice president at the time, believed it cost him the election, because voters blamed their woes on the Republicans.
– There were two recessions between 1980 and ’82. Unemployment reached almost 11 percent, and for six quarters, the GDP was negative.
– In 2013, CBS ran a program on the JFK assassination; it was titled, “When America Lost its Innocence.” The Orange County Register also called the event “the weekend America lost its innocence.” The ‘60s, they added, were “a time Americans came to question almost everything we had once taken for granted.”
– After the September 11 attacks, a senior Time magazine essayist, (among others), declared the event marked “the end of the age of irony.” Before the attacks, he explained, “the good folks in charge of America’s intellectual life have insisted that nothing was to be believed in or taken seriously.”
– Not to be outdone by her elders, a 25-year-old journalist wrote of the attacks, “Maybe a coddled generation that bathed itself in sarcasm will get serious. Maybe we’ll stop acting so jaded.”
– In 2012, a movie titled, “The Age of Deceit” was released.
– Earlier this month, the Fort Worth Business Press’ Robert Francis wrote an insightful column noting the sudden surge in the use of the words “unprecedented” and “uncertain.” Just for fun, I typed “unpr,” and sure enough, Google’s third search response was “unprecedented times.”
– In March, author and speaker Simon Sinek released a video out titled, “These Are Not Unprecedented Times.” It’s has more than more than 270,000 views – and just wait until we’re able to start holding conferences again.
Unprecedented or not, these are definitely difficult times for many. Please be kind to one another.
#FWPRSA: Due to the latest COVID-19 developments, the following changes have been made to the chapter’s upcoming events:
• March 19: GFW PRSA Health Care Special Interest Group meeting – postponed
• March 26: PR After Dark Happy Hour – postponed
• April 1: PRSA April luncheon – will be turned into a virtual event. Watch for details.
• May 6: PRSA May Luncheon – will be turned into a virtual event. Watch for details.
We are thinking of you & your teams and feel that keeping this group of PR professionals in contact will be beneficial as we all navigate this unprecedented time.
Legacy is not leaving something for people. It’s leaving something in people. —Peter Strople
Gigi Westerman, APR, Fellow PRSA, has been recognized with the prestigious 2019 SafeHaven Legacy of
Women Award. Westerman, a long-time member of GFW PRSA, was honored in October, along with
nine others community leaders and advocates during the 27 th annual Legacy of Women awards
ceremony. SafeHaven’s mission is to end domestic violence through safety, support, prevention and
social change as the largest and most comprehensive domestic violence service provider in Tarrant
The event “expands awareness of the astonishing one in three Tarrant County women who will
experience domestic violence in their lifetime, while honoring women who are leaders and advocates in
our region,” said Kathryn Jacob, president and CEO of Safehaven. “Legacy of Women exemplifies the
word ‘community’ with an unwavering support and continuous rise for change.”
Westerman is co-founder of The S & G Group, an Arlington-based strategic planning and
communications firm that offers integrated communications, market research and analysis, branding,
media relations, crisis communications, issue management, and media training services to clients in the
government, nonprofit and business sectors. Westerman launched the firm in 2015 with long-time
business partner Sandra Brodnicki, APR.
Westerman’s commitment in Tarrant County is all encompassing, according to Michelle Clark, APR,
Associate Vice Chancellor, Advancement Strategy and Administration at Texas Christian University and
Director, Greater Fort Worth PRSA. “Gigi demonstrates that throughout all aspects of her life – while
working on behalf of clients, volunteering for nonprofit organizations, being a committed friend, and
making a difference as a leader and mentor,” Clark said. “She is insightful and unfailingly generous of her
expertise, and uses her time and talents to help make our community and profession better.”
Westerman has been an active member of PRSA since 2002, serving in local and national capacities.
After earning her accreditation in 2010, she dedicated herself to helping others obtain their APRs,
through individual mentorship and local and national accreditation efforts. After being inducted into the
PRSA College of Fellows, she was asked to lead the College of Fellows mentoring efforts and helped
develop a national plan to enhance mentorship within the organization. She has also served as a GFW
PRSA board member and assembly delegate since 2012, bringing local issues to the national stage.
The city’s top communicators were recognized for their outstanding achievements last night at the GFW PRSA 2019 Worthy Awards dinner.
A total of 58 awards were handed out at the eighth annual celebration, including 32 Awards of Excellence, 16 Awards of Achievement, and ten Worthy Awards–the chapter’s highest honor. The awards recognize the best in strategic communications programs and tactics practiced by professionals and students in the greater Fort Worth area.
Check out the full list of winners, here.
Communicator of the Year
Each year, GFW PRSA recognizes a community member outside the public relations profession who demonstrates leadership and effective communication when involved in a major event or issue affecting the greater Fort Worth region. This year’s award went to Mary-Margaret Lemons, president of Fort Worth Housing Solutions.
As the leader of the city’s independent housing authority, Lemons has worked to build and maintain support for deconcentrating low-income housing in Fort Worth. She was recognized for leading the charge for affordable housing by cultivating relationships with Fort Worth City Council, senior city staff, officials at Housing and Urban Development, as well as social service agencies and private developers.
Previous honorees include Dr. Kent Scribner, Fort Worth ISD superintendent; Paul Paine, Near Northside, Inc. president; Robert Earley, JPS President and CEO; Patsy Thomas, former president Mental Health Connection; Walter Danby, former Fort Worth ISD Superintendent; Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price; and former Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns.
PRSA Professional of the Year
Michelle Gutt, the communications and public engagement director for the City of Fort Worth, is the recipient of the inaugural Douglas Ann Newsom PRSA Professional of the Year Award. The newly introduced honor recognizes PRSA members who have made significant and outstanding achievement in the profession.
Gutt has more than 25 years of marketing and public relations experience in government, corporate and nonprofit work, and currently leads communications efforts for a diverse city-wide audience. Among many accomplishments, Gutt was recognized for her work developing a robust communications plan for the city’s Race and Culture Task Force, launching the MyFW customer service app for the city, and developing and launching an extensive internal communications plan surrounding the city’s pension vote earlier this year.