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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Printing's key role in the 157th U.S. Presidential Inauguration

Earlier this week, when I was having a bad day, one of my more generous LinkedIn connections, Mr. Kevin Keane, an attorney and President and CEO of IAPHC in Minneapolis-St. Paul, threw me a lifeline in the form of a YouTube video link.  It illustrates the care and pride with which Ms. Davita Vance-Cooks, Acting Public Printer, and other staff of the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) developed and produced essential printed collateral for Monday’s 57th Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama. 

The GPO’s contributions to this momentous occasion include invitations, stationery, program packet kits, parking passes, maps, signage, 280,000 colour-coded tickets to the inauguration ceremony, and over 10,000 secure-access credentials.

What especially thrills me about the video is the reminder it provides of the ages-old connection between printing and democracy.  Its commentaries include Charles E. Schumer, Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, pointing out that Monday’s swearing-in ceremony was not only the inauguration of the American president but also a celebration of democracy, free elections, and the peaceful transfer of political power.

I am writing this post within view of a free-giveaway poster I once collected at a printing trade show and liked so much (despite its archaic wording that forgets to include women) that I had it laminated and hung it on my office wall.  It reads:


Without him, tyrants and humbugs in all countries would have their own way.  He is a friend of intelligence and thought, a friend of liberty, of freedom, of law, indeed, the friend of every man who is a friend of order.

Of all inventions, of all discoveries in science and art, of all the great results in the wonderful progress of mechanical energy and skill, the PRINTER is the only product of civilization necessary to the existence of free men.

- Charles Dickens, 1850

Thank you, Kevin Keane and Charles Dickens, for reminding me that printing matters in the same way that politics and law and journalism matter.  I recognize these truths as well as anyone, because my father’s cousin, Hugh Gaitskell, was Britain’s Leader of the Opposition from 1955 to 1963, and because every journalist worth her salt knows that "The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing" (Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism).  But sometimes, when I lose sight of what matters in the mire of everyday living, I’m grateful that there are positive influencers like you to help lift our baser thoughts up into the higher sphere where the best of human achievements are possible.

PS:  I should also mention it was Mr. Keane who recently drew my attention to the delicious irony that, after Google caused a huge kafuffle earlier this month by trying to instigate a Paperless 2013 campaign, Google Creative Labs turned around and won USA Today’s first $1-million print advertising contest.