15 Years, 12 Hours and a Song

by Melissa Brunner

What do you get when you have 12 hours in a vehicle and a speech to give? A little bit of corniness!

Many of you know, I traveled to Milwaukee a few weeks ago to accept an alumni award from the Marquette University College of Communications. It meant I had to give a speech and I had no idea what I should say! The parameters were pretty open - reflect on your Marquette experience, talk about your commitment to community service (since that's what the award was about), comment on today's media industry. Oh, and try not to bore everyone! (ok, that last part is the pressure I put on myself!).

I ended up coming back to a song, and it developed into the text of the speech below. Since you all support me so much in this community, I wanted to take a few moments to share it with you. I'll mark 15 years at WIBW-TV next week. I've grown a lot during that time, and you've been there with me every step of the way - chicken pox and all!

On a side note, one person who watched me grow turns out to be the current Dean of the Marquette College of Communications, Lori Bergen! When we met, she told me she watched me for many years. She grew up in Salina, Kansas and worked at Kansas State University from 1994-2006. Her father, Richard Bergen, is the sculptor who made the Ad Astra statue. Small world! 

 Pic my hubby snapped!


My speech:

Dean Bergen, Fr. Wild, thank you for inviting me to campus to share this wonderful occassion. Thank you so much for selecting me for this recognition, truly a surprise. Sharon Tiedge - it is a true honor to get to know you and your family. I am also humbled to accept this in memory of Jim Tiedge, who taught that we in the media are given a very large voice, and with that voice comes great responsibility and an obligation to the communities we serve.

I've never been comfortable with the term celebrity referring to journalists. But over the years I have come to accept that the visibility I have by virtue of being in people's homes very evening means I can bring attention to worthwhile causes and activities. I think of some of the people who've come into my life - I think of Alex, who is now mobile and interacting with the world around him thanks to the therapists at topeka's Easter seals capper foundation; I think of my beautiful young friend Sarah, who I met through the muscular dystrophy association and I've watched grow up - she's in the hospital today, hoping to hold yet another side effect of her disease at bay until a cure is found; I think of Julia, who had her vision robbed by juvenile arthritis yet works full-time advocating for people with disabilities; I think of rayna, who at 11 years old would like to be a lawyer, but first it would be great if her grandma could get her and her brother out of the rescue mission and into a home of their own; I accept this award on behalf of them and the countless cancer survivors, heart patients, children and families....with deep gratitude for them allowing me to be their voice.

Since learning I'd be coming here today, I've thought a lot about my Marquette experience. I could tell you about the countless late nights in the basement of Johnston hall; working in the Schroeder hall cafeteria; the first time I heard the phrase "righty tighty lefty Lucy" when dr. Havice explained setting tripod legs; how dr. Slattery ripped apart the very first broadcast script I ever wrote - and also sent me my first fan letter, after my first live shot ever; dr. Porter's encouragement, dr. Starr's discussion based philosophy classes; all of that laid a solid foundation for what lie ahead, but what crept into my head was the first day of orientation week, coming to a ballroom in this very building to take care of student I.d. Photos and the like. I remember two of the songs blaring in the room. One was " shiny, happy people " - there were a lot of those! I was one of them! So excited to be there! The other was REM's "stand." thinking now about that day and that song, it was a challenge for the future.

Stand in the place where you live. Think about direction - wonder why you haven't before.

Appreciate where you are, stay grounded. But think about direction, explore the possibilities. And now that I'm older - why not think about the direction of those around me, and how I can reach out and make it better.

if you are confused, check with the sun. Carry a compass to help you along.

The sun - when I've been through tough times, I find myself looking to the sky and reminding myself no matter what, the sun always comes up in the morning. We can count on it. But sometimes we need that compass to guide us on the path back to see it. To give us direction.

A compass is more than north, south, east and west - there are countless points in between, each guiding you along a new path. We need to decide which points will be our guide. Professionally, it's a challenge for journalists in today's ever changing dynamic. Technology has given rise to a 24-hour, want-it-now news cycle that brings new pressures not only to be first, but to fill the time. Will we talk about the royal wedding or will we talk about devastating tornadoes? Are we watching a news report and forming our own opinions or are we watching news-o-tainment and hearing what someone else thinks? Where do you take the camera? What questions do you ask, and how do you aak them?

Where will you follow your compass?

The greatest lesson I learned at Marquette was to treat everyone, no matter who they may be, what they may or may not have done, with respect. When you do a story, do it as though you will have to look the people involved in the eye the next day. If you can do that - look them in the eye knowing you have been fair and respectful, not necessarily easy on them, then you have done your job.

That is the direction I follow on my compass. Of course, it wouldn't be near as fun or satisfying without someone on the same path. To my husband Doug - thank you for your support and being alongside me for the next charity run or event - or with a camera on your shoulder for the next big project!

stand in the place where you live. Think about direction. No matter which direction I go, a part of me will always stand at home, where my parents who are here today taught me to always work hard.... and a part of me will always stand at Marquette, where I honed the compass that strives to never lead me off course.

Thank you.

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