Spring 2016

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59 SAG-AFTRA | Spring 2016 | Parting Words Linda Fetters Howard shared the following with the union. Shortly before his death, SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard drafted this letter to members, fellow union leaders and staff. Dear Member, M y life's work has been a delight. Of course there were some low spots along the way; no life fully lived can avoid those. But lives don't come much luckier than mine. I've spent an entire career doing work many only dream of. And I've done it in your remarkable company. I've enjoyed your brilliance, sometimes just inches away from you, sometimes watching from my seat in the audience. Your talent is inspiring and infectious. And I can look back now and say with some pride that, at least once in a while, it rubbed off. What a thrill it has been. I'll never forget the laughs. The knowing grins. All those wonderful shared stories of prior adventures. And, every once in a while, the marvelous shared satisfaction of creating something memorable. I'd be a lucky man if it stopped there. But fate had something more in store for me. Something that would change my life. Enlarge it. Give it new meaning. And for that, I am forever grateful. In 2007, embarking on yet another acting adventure, I met an important friend. My cast mate Ned Vaughn was concerned about signs of growing conflict between Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. When the conflict ruptured into open hostility, Ned spoke with clarity and passion about the need for action. I was convinced, and joined him and others on what would become one of the most meaningful journeys of my life. When I began serving on the SAG National Board in 2008, I honestly didn't know how long my union service would last. I'd always been grateful for the protection of my unions and felt it was time for me to give something back. But like so many of us, I didn't fully understand what goes into maintaining our strength, even after decades of depending on it. In the midst of a busy acting career, it was all too easy to take that protection for granted. But the trouble roiling our unions in the summer of 2008 and my early lessons in the SAG boardroom soon made it clear that nothing could be taken for granted. By 2009, the stakes of the conflict between SAG and AFTRA were unambiguous: The unions would either engage in an indefinite showdown that would leave both vulnerable or we would find a way to unite and eliminate management's ability to divide us. As I listened to you, my fellow members, on sets and in union meetings, one message rang out above all others: We are stronger together. That message — your message — became my cause and commitment. During an eventful first year of board service, my impulse to give something back became a focused mission to unite SAG and AFTRA. When fellow board members asked if I would run for SAG president — something that wasn't planned and almost didn't happen — I didn't hesitate. By then, I was fixed on your message and our common goal, and decided I would give my all to achieving it. Of course, there's an important distinction between embracing a decision in one's mind and taking action to make it real. And there's a universe of difference between identifying a challenge — or even having the vision to see its solution — and possessing the wisdom, stamina and grit to succeed. I'll happily claim ownership of exactly one link in that chain: No one had to push me to take action. I heard a call and answered it, and I'm so glad I did. But what about all the other links? The wisdom, stamina and grit? The patience, perseverance and seemingly endless planning? The intelligence and trust and listening and friendship? Well, for all those I have relied on the greatest team of partners one could imagine. Just like I grew as an actor through the inspiration of the transcendent talents around me, I became an effective leader by working with and learning from bona fide superstars. Some are fellow members, others our remarkable union staff, but they all have one thing in common: They are extraordinary at what they do, and you and I are their direct beneficiaries. One of my proudest moments as president came on March 30, 2012, when I announced to an overflowing Cagney Boardroom that SAG-AFTRA was born. The pure joy of that moment won't be forgotten by any of the hundreds who were there, or the hundreds more who were watching live around the country. It was, quite simply, electric. But a short while later, another singular event took place. With onlookers gathered in my office, I presented the very last Screen Actors Guild membership card to SAG-AFTRA Senior Advisor John McGuire. The man is plainly brilliant and when I mentioned that you and I are the direct beneficiaries of union leadership superstars, his is the name that

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