“The American Institute of Architects derives its strength from its members, and our deep convictions about the power of architecture in society. We seek social progress, equity in human affairs, and responsible environmental practices.
For years, our policies and programs have committed us to achieving these goals . . . equal opportunity for all, justice for all, a better quality of life for everyone.
That is why we worked so hard with our friends to come to this place tonight. To this place: the National Museum of African American History and Culture, just days after—for the first time—the AIA awarded its Gold Medal to an African American architect, Paul Revere Williams.
Our truest values as professionals—and as citizens—are of critical importance today, perhaps now more than ever in our lifetimes. The changes coming to Washington DC, the city we call our own, will almost certainly pose serious challenges to our policies as an Institute, and to the ideas and values many architects hold dearest—maybe even to national interests. We will need to muster our greatest strengths.
It is wonderful to become your president at a time when our members are so engaged—you might say they are paying attention as never before—and just when we most need unity of purpose and strength. We are in a climate that requires the utmost sensibility and care. I promise that we will provide it.
The AIA is a diverse and transparent professional society, with a long record of bi-partisan activism. No individual speaks for us. No individual alone ever speaks for us. Our record and our actions speak for themselves.
We must fortify confidence in our Institute, and attract the loyalty of those we most need, and who most need us. We will gain allegiance by putting our highest and best values foremost. With you, we will work hard to maintain that course.
Every AIA president stands on the shoulders of those who came before. These are our pillars. I close with deep gratitude to those who have preceded me . . . some of them here tonight, and many now far away.
We win some, and lose some, but always we press forward. It is an honor to be in front for a time. But our true power is you, and the power of association. The strength of the American Institute of Architects is its members. We are strong because of every one of us.”
--Tom Vonier’s inaugural remarks given at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture on December 10th, 2016.