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NCRA President’s speech embraces the past, celebrates the future

The following is the speech given by Stephen A. Zinone, RPR, NCRA’s President, during the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo. He can be reached at


Good morning.

Thank you for all being here. I know many of you traveled great distances to be here today. I really appreciate your extraordinary efforts to be a part of NCRA’s 2015 Convention & Expo. As we all know, traveling isn’t what it used to be!

Also, I would like to thank my family for being here on this very special day. I wouldn’t be able to serve in the capacity I do without their unending support.

Additionally, we have a member here by the name of Norman Kagan, who is from Johannesburg, South Africa. Since the late 1990s, Norman’s ambition has been to introduce court reporting to South Africa. Norman has made significant progress to achieve his ambition. Thanks for being here, Norman.

This is a very humbling experience for me, because I’m just a hard-working reporter from upstate New York, who is very, very fortunate to be standing here as president of our Association. It’s stunning to think that I fall in a long, long line of leadership stretching back more than 115 years.

In recognizing our deep history of leadership which started in Chicago in 1899, with our first convention, our first president, Kendrick Hill from New York, said this to the 156 charter members of our association:

“Education, experience, and professional skill to a superlative degree are required in the practice of our art, and we are entitled everywhere to recognition and compensation to a degree commensurate therewith.”

For more than 100 years, we have been coming together and networking, continuing to sharpen our skills, our knowledge. We do this together, because we are all in this together.

As I mentioned, many of you traveled from afar to be here today. How apropos that we are gathered in the biggest melting pot in our great country, New York City. And how ironic that just a few miles from here is where many of our ancestors came to start a new life. Traveling from all over the world, traveling for much longer than it takes us to grab a connecting flight and oftentimes in tough conditions.

Why? Opportunity, not just for themselves, but for their families, in the pursuit of liberty, freedom, happiness, and prosperity.

Some came alone, some came with part of their families, some brought their entire families. Some traveled farther than others.

But the common thread interwoven in all of their fabric is that they aspired to prosper in America. Why America? Because it is as true today as it was then: land of opportunity. That’s America.

Everyone is entitled to a fair shake.

As stenographic court reporters, that’s where all of us come in. We guarantee that everyone gets a fair shake. Everyone is entitled to the Bill of Rights and everything that our great Constitution stands for. Everyone is entitled to access. Access to justice. Access to knowledge. Access to education. Access to the ability to succeed. Access to everything that guarantees that all of us get a fair shake.

Our profession dates back to 3500 B.C. with the Sumerians who recognized the importance of preserving thought and created written literacy. Then in 63 B.C., the time of Cicero and Tiro, where the scriveners developed the first shorthand system to record official Roman Senate proceedings, ensuring that the times of the Roman Empire were recorded for future centuries.

The Roman Senate scribes. Can you imagine what their lunchroom conversations were like? “Boy, that guy Caeser is really full of himself, and he talks too darn fast! What’s wrong with the guy? I’m trying to make a record over here!”

Just like the history of our great country is worth celebrating, so too is the history of our time-honored profession.

The Gallery of Shorthand. Words cannot describe the magnificent display of the deep and rich history of our profession, which is exhibited in the Senator Alphonse D’Amato Federal Courthouse in Central Islip, N.Y. I encourage all of you to plan a visit. I can assure you that you will not want to leave, but when you do, you will have such a deep appreciation for our profession that the smile on your face and the pride in your heart will be with you every day of your career when you think about the evolution of our timeless profession and that you are part of it.

Thank you, Dom Tursi, curator, for persevering over a number of years in making the dream of the Gallery of Shorthand a reality. A tribute to those who came before us, those who are here with us now, and those who will follow us, in the evolution of our timeless profession.

Who we are and what we do:

Preserving thought, preserving history, supporting the cornerstone of our justice system, making sure that everyone gets a fair shake, the right to appeal to a higher court, access for all people from all walks of life, regardless of race, creed, or religion. Access for those that, without our captioning and providing CART, would not be able to live the American dream, and the dream of so many others in every country in the world.

That’s powerful. That’s what we do. That is who we are and what we bring to the table.

We are all in this together. United we stand. And if we become divided, we will fall.

But we are not going to fall. Let me tell you why.

Look around you. Go ahead, take a look. We are a group of people who have that common thread woven in our being. Each of us has it. We don’t quit. We don’t accept failure. We continually strive every day, whether in the deposition suite in front of the camera or behind it, in the courtroom, in the CART captioning setting or the broadcast captioning environment, or in our schools where our future scriveners sharpen their skills for their journey in the evolution of our timeless profession.

That unique thread connects us all, brings us together through NCRA, our state associations, and our affiliate associations.

But most of all, it unites us as the evolutions of our timeless profession marches on.

Are there challenges that lie ahead? You bet there are. Will we meet them head on? You bet we will. And I can assure you that when we stand united, work together, and give it 110 percent, which is what all of us do, every day, we will persevere and conquer all of those challenges. It’s just how we roll. Just as we have for decades and decades.

I have been very fortunate to attend many state and affiliate conventions during my NCRA journey, and I would like to share with you some observations. First, court reporters like to talk! Videographers are all about the lighting! And all convention planners are hyperactive and suffer from lack of sleep.

All kidding aside, thank you to all of you who have and will continue to request an NCRA rep for your conventions. It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of your conventions.

It is imperative that the Board of Directors interact and see our profession from your vantage point. To see and hear what is affecting your state, your affiliation. To hear what you think NCRA should be doing, as well as what you think NCRA should not be doing.

Also, for your NCRA rep to help you during your convention by presenting seminars that cover many different areas of our profession. Also, to inform you, our members, what NCRA is doing.

I can tell you that Vision 2018 is progressing well on all fronts, thanks to our hard-working Board and our hard-working staff. We have an incredibly brilliant and dedicated staff, led by our new CEO Mike Nelson. Always remember that NCRA is your association! NCRA exists because of you, the membership.

Let’s look where we are today. Online testing. Certification from the comfort of your own home or office. The ability to test more often and at your convenience. Shaking off those unnecessary test-day jitters. Using your favorite chair and with a cup of coffee! That’s progress.

Providing CART captioning to a dental student who deaf and performing dental work on a patient and reading his instructor’s lecture on Google Glass.

That’s technology, and it’s happening right up the street by one of our brightest colleagues, Mirabai Knight.

Advocating on Capitol Hill for quality standards for captioning. I can’t imagine a world without captioning. Can you? Of course not. And NCRA’s government relations team is up on that Hill making things better for us and for our consumers.

Our impressive and successful Take Note campaign, our job one:  Education and students.

Given that we are in New York City, let’s pause for a moment and remember a day in our history that none of us will ever forget: That one morning in September 2001 that turned our world upside down and brought all of us together – from New York, Shanksville, Pa., and Washington, D.C. – and beyond. We were all united on that day.

Every one of us remembers exactly where we were on that clear crisp September morning.

Imagine yourself as a person who is deaf or hard of hearing on the 30th floor of your apartment building, located in Anywhere, U.S.A. As you watch the assault on our country, our way of life, on the innocent people who died on that day. 2,977 heroes died within blocks of where you are now sitting.

If it wasn’t for the brave and outstanding captioners, working tirelessly for hours and hours, writing as the tears came down their faces, so that those individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing had access to what was happening. Otherwise, without that access provided by those incredible captioners, they would have thought the world was coming to an end.

That’s powerful. That’s who we are. That’s what we do.

So when you hear those naysayers about our profession, tell them that. Remind them of that day in September.

Our future is bright. I know it is. Will all the students here this morning please stand?

Right here. Our future. Thank you for coming here this morning and thank you for attending. Please don’t leave here without a mentor. If you have a mentor, great. If you don’t, stand at the back of this room at the end of this presentation and raise your hand.

All you veterans, when you walk out and you see a student with a raised hand, extend your hand. Become a mentor.

We are all in this together.

Job one, our students, who are our future.

These are examples of the incredibly talented people who will be standing up here some time in the future as president of this association. Great examples of how the evolution of our timeless profession is in good hands.

Just wait until you see what we have in store for you during the Premier Session. The talent that will be on this stage will bedazzle you in many ways, especially from the two young men who are unbelievably talented and gifted and driven.

I urge you to both embrace our history and celebrate our future at this year’s Convention & Expo. The educational sessions, the vendors in the Expo Hall, the networking opportunities—this is why you came. You’re ready to go to the next level. Drink it in and find ways to define and contribute to the future of this profession.

Preserving history, preserving through, providing access, assuring everybody gets a fair shake.

That’s who we are and I am very proud and very humbled to be standing here as your president. Thank you for the opportunity and I won’t let you down. And, of course, keep punching. Thank you.