President's Message:

Diamonds

By: FCRA President Sharon Velazco, RPR, FPR, CLR

Since the theme of our convention is diamonds, let me start by saying it's an honor and a privilege to be in the midst of such a treasure trove of accomplished individuals, and to serve with such a priceless, dedicated board. I am in awe of others in the audience who have stood where I am now standing and would like to recognize the past presidents who continue to work behind the scenes, tirelessly for FCRA. You consistently demonstrate your passionate commitment to our vocation, and inspire all of us. I am also inspired by everyone I see here today because of your attendance at this convention and participation in FCRA, for which we are grateful. I know I speak for the whole board when I say we are all so happy to be here with you and to serve with you in our goal of advancing our profession. 

When it finally hit me at the convention last year that I would be the next president, I immediately knew what would be the theme for this year's convention -- diamonds! Not only because it's my favorite stone -- Right, Honey? -- I thought it appropriate to use the metaphor of diamonds to stress your importance as court reporters. You are invaluable. The stones in my crown may not have value like real diamonds, but you do. I love the adage, diamonds are forever. You may reshape them or re-set them, but they are still diamonds. And looking out at all of you, I am dazzled by your collective brilliance. On the MOHS hardness scale, which is the standard by which all minerals and stones are measured, the diamond sets the bar for its ability to withstand pressure and duress. The most brilliant of diamonds are those that are formed under extreme pressure, at the highest temperatures. All of you sitting here today shine so brightly because of what you have been through and who you are, court reporters. I know that each of you has experienced the intense heat of a fiery cross-examination, or struggled with a witness or attorney who just cannot be heard, because of the room's ambiance, interruptions by others, or the simple fact that the speaker is soft-spoken. You go through those situations every day. You demonstrate your worth is immeasurable because in the fire of your expedites and dailies and general difficulty in dealing with your constant pressures, you take the stress without cracking and you get that transcript out! 

Where the beauty and value of a diamond is largely based on the four Cs of cut, clarity, carat weight, and color, the value of a court reporter can also be measured in four Cs; our character, our competence, our conviction, and the way we care for our profession. 

Our character is the sum total of who we are, the qualities we bring to what we do. The challenges we face every day help shape us into the brilliant gemstones we are, and help to carve the facets that make us shine so brightly. Some of us may be princess-cut -- Laurie -- or marquise -- Lance -- while others are the more traditional solitaire -- The rest of us! Our value is further enhanced by our willingness to evolve and be reshaped, and this reshaping is usually done through our experiences. There is nothing like walking into a two-week arbitration about chemical dumping and being told right then and there, "Oh, by the way, we want this daily copy." Somehow though, through panic and perseverance, you get it done, and have added yet another facet to your life as a court reporter. 

The second C in determining our worth would be our competence. We demonstrate and maintain our competence by staying current with our equipment and software training, attending seminars and conventions such as this, and constantly working toward higher certifications. We should all pursue the elite skill of realtime reporting. Even if you are just realtiming for yourself, your editing time is reduced, your pages get out faster, and your income is increased. Being a realtime reporter shows our willingness to stay relevant in the legal community. And, it's not just the legal community. We should bear in mind our worth to society as a whole. We have become even more valuable as other avenues have opened up for our capabilities. We are able to shine in settings like CART, where our talents can influence lives and change destinies, whether it be captioning for large audiences, such as at a stadium or a church, or on an individual level, like in a classroom setting. Court reporters make the difference in elevating deaf and hard-of-hearing students to their chosen careers where otherwise, they would be limited by their inability to participate in their mainstream learning environment. Our dedication to helping them with their education results in the graduation of more doctors, engineers, scientists, and other professionals. This is perhaps one of the most important, although song-less-sung accomplishments, knowing that you have made the world a better place for the wave of brilliant minds that now have the opportunity to make a difference in our world because of you, the court reporters. Because we are competent, we can embrace technology and all it has to offer. Our own skill set of keeping the record has been augmented by the advances in technology, and it is important to appreciate that we will always be able to enure that progress to our own benefit. Our intelligence sets us apart from the mostly automated attempts of maintaining a record. Using our human, God-given intellect, we have the ability to instantly interpret the nuances of sound and render them into words, so that even the most difficult of scientific testimony and accents can be discerned at that moment, in their proper context, and instantly made into a readable, useable record. So yes, the world is evolving, but we are transforming with it. There may be other means of recording proceedings, but unlike the proverbial Chicken Little, who lamented "The sky is falling, the sky is falling," we must focus on our own potential, and not be distracted by whatever other methodologies are entering the market. Daily, we demonstrate our ability to keep up with the changing times.

The third C in determining our worth as court reporters is our conviction. As Anita Paul would say, "We are excellent court reporters, albeit not perfect. However, it is that constant striving for perfection that makes us excellent court reporters." Our conviction shapes us, and is best demonstrated by the performance of our job to the utmost of our ability, treating each transcript as if it were about our own personal case. There is something to be said about "You are only as good as your last transcript." That little maxim will keep you on your toes!

Finally, I believe the most important C for determining our value is caring. You show you care by giving back, by visiting a school, whether it is a college, a high school honors English class, or even an elementary school. The initial admiration of what we do leaves a lasting mark on impressionable young minds, and gives them just one more option when they are considering their future. You also show you care for our profession by remaining positive, especially on social media. It is only by positive self-promotion that we can further enhance the worth of what we do in the eyes of others. When we celebrate each other, it benefits the whole profession. Whatever flaws or imperfections there may be are dulled in the light of our overall accomplishments. And nothing is as brilliant as when we unite and band together, much like the diamonds in this tiara -- which I will be wearing tonight! Another way you show you care is by mentoring. I remember my first contact with court reporters. I was 25 and working in a law firm. I would see these well-dressed professionals come to our office for depositions. They would come in with suitcases but would only stay about an hour and "hang out." Later, when I was writing their checks, I found it incredible that they made so much money. I thought, "I can do that." I didn't know exactly what they did, but I knew I could do that! I was intrigued, and started harassing, better said stalking every court reporter that came in. Right, Margaret? Thank goodness, those reporters like Margaret Phillips were patient and more than willing to take the time to answer my questions. Their mentoring helped me get through school, and helps me even today. So whether you are mentoring a student, a newbie, or someone in an online court reporter forum, be assured that you are making a difference. I am sure that each of you remembers the mentors who have been instrumental in your life, other court reporters you wish to emulate. You, my peers, are who I admire, and I wish to emulate your devotion to our calling.

So by using our character, our competence, our conviction, and our caring for our profession, we will sparkle in our setting, whatever that setting may be. I encourage you to consider those four Cs to do your best and shine brightly like the diamonds you are. Focus on your constant betterment. Get involved in your -- our -- organization. Volunteer to serve on a committee for FCRA. There is a place for you, and your assistance is not only requested, it is needed. With your help, we will be strong and stand united as we move into our future and show the world that court reporters, like diamonds, are forever.