Thomas Vonier, FAIA, 2017 AIA President
Photography: Carl Bower Thomas Vonier, FAIA, 2017 AIA President

The American Institute of Architects belongs to its members. It is here to advance all of our values and defend our interests.

The organization exists to stimulate the demand for architecture in society. It is here to improve practice—by developing useful tools and systems, by promoting fair and honest business dealings, by defending responsible policies, by enhancing equity, by championing inclusion, by strengthening knowledge, and by encouraging research. The power of association is genuine. It is also necessary, perhaps today as rarely ever before. The idea is both simple and powerful: Together, we can do more than any one of us can do alone. Our international network of members and components is very strong, but we can be stronger. We can wield greater influence.

Let’s recognize that the AIA is our only association. Yes, there are groups for green buildings, for historic properties, for planning, for schools, and for urban development, but the AIA is the only one for architects, about architects, and by architects.

But if we are to remain on course—if the Institute is to serve the interests of architecture and architects—then its members must be engaged. We must direct the Institute. We must step up, and we must take charge. So it was extremely gratifying last month to see the American Institute of Architecture Students field nearly 20 enthusiastic candidates for national office!

AIA members with an appetite for office tend to begin in a local chapter—that’s natural enough. But too often they also finish there. My challenge to all of you is simple: Run for AIA National office. Such involvement is essential to the well-being of the Institute. It is also very rewarding. As elected officials, we learn what motivates our profession. We take on thorny issues and challenging problems. We identify opportunities. We stake out meaningful positions and sharpen our views. We seek to win the confidence of our peers and interlocutors. We work to stimulate global demand for our work and to improve the basis for our practices.

So why not you? Run for national office! So many people have spoken out in the past few months. Now it’s time to take action, and to do that you need to be in position to affect that action. You need to take charge. You need to do it.