I heard my friend Arlo Guthrie say something the other day. He was looking for donations to keep the Guthrie “Bring Your Own God” Church going. He said that every time someone put something into the pot, they became a part owner and were responsible for the continuance of the Guthrie Center.
I’ve been saying that about WAMC in different ways for years. Again and again, I’ve reminded you, “We’re all in this together.” We all know that in 1979 the then Albany Medical College, owner of WAMC, was going broke. That was before they combined with the Albany Medical Center and became the fantastic medical powerhouse they are today. But back then, they were broke and the radio station was pronounced dead, a stethoscope up against its chest. A group of us asked if we could try to save it and to our amazement, the Medical College under the brilliant doctors Bob Friedlander and Alan Miller, gave us our chance. We were broke and in debt to the College. We went on the air and asked the question: “Do we want to keep this thing alive?” There was a resounding affirmation from all quarters of the WAMC listening area. Unsolicited signs popped up with Beethoven in a raft. Kids went around with coffee cans to collect donations. The legendary Mayor of Albany, Erastus Corning, showed up to make a personal challenge (our first) of $800. Somehow we did it. Despite those who would have had us fail, it seemed that no one was going to let that happen. We scratched, we scrounged, we came to you or the people who lived in your homes before you did and somehow we made it.
Our Northeast Public Radio, otherwise known as WAMC, is now twenty-nine facilities. We have reporters where you live. We produce an amazing number of programs. We are one of the largest contributors to NPR. Frankly, the station is legend because of all of you who understand how important it is to keep us going. It has been about 37 years since this all began and it may seem like much more but one central thing is for sure: it is still YOU who keep it going. Back in the day, we asked some of the most important and well-heeled people in town to take an interest and to keep the WAMC flame alive. Not knowing who or what we were, many of them said no and said it rather emphatically. So it kept coming back to you. Now there are enough people to keep it going, in fact, more than enough. We have a locked box and in the last drive we put $400,000 into that box before Day One of our million dollar drive. I’d love to break that record this time and I know that we can do it. Our great friend, Tony Meola, put up an amazingly generous $5,000 as a locked box challenge. Now, as you read this, we have what seems like just moments to make it as we grow closer and closer to our record. If everyone who listens put something in, the drive would be over.
Frankly, I like the fund drives. They give us a chance to talk to each other and to connect. Of course, there are always those who gripe and I ask them, “Did YOU put anything in the locked box?” Inevitably the answer comes back, a muffled intonation that sounds like a bunch of garbled consonants. Look, I love everyone who gives because it shows your ownership of this fragile enterprise. If we lose you, we’ve lost the game and I’m determined to keep this wonderful station, probably the best in the world, alive.
So, consider the imperative: if we all do something we live. If there is a weak link in the chain, we die. I choose life. I know that you will join me.