I haven't lived in Washington for very long. GAC will mark two years.
Washington didn't have much of a winter two years ago. I remember working up a sweat walking from my hotel to the convention center and admiring the early cherry blossoms. It was 80 degrees.
I got some bad news, folks. It won't be 80 degrees this year.
Having moved here from San Diego, I feel like I should sue somebody for false advertising. This isn't the winter I was shown in the brochure.
Thankfully, GAC attendees won't be slipping in their dress shoes on icy sidewalks, as we locals have been doing for months. The last of the snow and ice should melt by the weekend, and there's no snow forecasted … until after GAC.
But hey, at least the clouds are lifting long enough to benefit America's credit unions. I’m really looking forward to seeing so many credit union executives and volunteers in one place again. Conferences are exhausting, but also inspiring, educational and fun. I’m already having a great time touching base with colleagues and friends via email and social media, in preparation for GAC meet ups.
This year, I’m declaring a list of resolutions for my GAC experience. Maybe you have a similar list.
I resolve to spend less time sitting in conference sessions, and more time meeting new people. Don't get me wrong, GAC has a good agenda. But how much more can we write about what the experts think about tax reform or data security or regulatory burden? I’d rather chat with folks about the stories we might be missing.
The business cards I collect will see the light of day. When meeting someone at a conference, promises to keep in touch are usually well-meaning. However, after returning to the office, the reality of workloads and family obligations crushes those good intentions. To combat business card atrophy, I’ve already installed a card reader app on my iPhone, so I can scan them throughout GAC. Once they’re imported into my contacts list, my new friends’ likelihood of hearing from me again will increase significantly.
I’ll allow myself to get caught up in the democratic spirit. I find these hill hike events to be kind of strange. Visiting elected officials in Washington takes on a kind of Emerald City vibe. The Capitol is so big! And grand! And historic! There are famous and colorful people walking through the halls, like Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and her cowboy hats, and minority party troublemakers like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
The ancient subway underneath that connects the Capitol to the Senate and Congressional office buildings kind of feels like a theme park ride. And like Disneyland, there are plenty of sanctimonious folks who grin from ear to ear as if they really are in the Happiest Place on Earth.
The ability to meet face to face with elected officials – or their chiefs of staff – is sadly still somewhat rare in this world. I’m no fan of so-called public servants expecting campaign funds from every advocate that crosses their thresholds, but our system could be worse.
I’ll put my own political views aside during keynote addresses. I’m no fan of Tony Blair; not because he's the UK's version of Bill Clinton, but because of his support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The anti-war protestor in me wants to yell “WAR CRIMINAL!” while chucking my shoes at the stage. If I’m allowed past Secret Service and CUNA security after this column publishes, however, I’ll listen to the former prime minister's address with an open mind. I might even walk away a fan, like I did after Condoleezza Rice's fantastic speech two years ago.
If you’ll be at GAC this year, I’ll see you soon. Remember to pack some sensible shoes, and by all means, bring a coat.