Speech: Margery Kraus, 2012 Agency Honoree


MARA HEDGECOTH: Thank you. Tonight, I have the honor of introducing an extraordinary woman who has had an amazing impact on countless people, the profession, and me, personally. She is a mentor to many. And I should know. I’ve seen it firsthand, for my nearly 40 years of life. Margery Kraus is not just an inspirational leader, visionary CEO, and communications practitioner. As you’ve just learned, she’s also my mom. And an amazing one, at that.

I have been witness to the countless number of people she has influenced throughout the years. She began her career as a 12th-grade civics teacher, mentoring students at an influential stage of their lives. When I was in grade school, we often adopted our friends who needed advice, who needed a stable place to live, and a guiding hand to get back on track, or who graduated from college and were finding their way in a new career, or just needed some life counsel.

She spent more than a decade leading the Close-Up Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, citizenship education organization that promotes responsible and informed participation in the democratic process, where she brought thousands upon thousands of high school students to Washington DC, to learn firsthand about government and politics. And as you can imagine, that would take a lot of patience.

She is still a member of the Close-Up Board of Directors today. And nearly 750,000 participants have gone through, been inspired by, and empowered by the program. It still amazes me how many people I run into who say that they’ve been through the program, and it shaped the career path that they followed, who they are as professionals today, and how profoundly they were influenced by that experience. And they attribute that to Margery’s vision and commitment to the Close-Up program.

She still continued to set her targets on uncharted territory, and she decided to accept a challenge to start up a consulting business, with the law firm of Arnold and Porter. At a time when it wasn’t easy to be a woman leading a business, she took on that challenge. She’s taken that firm, APCO Worldwide, and has grown it into the second largest independent firm in our industry, providing countless opportunities and inspiration to our more than 600 employees, in more than 32 offices, mentoring them to build successful careers, and helping counsel numerous individuals in our profession.

I get to see firsthand how many people she influences and inspires on a daily basis, with her unwavering commitment to every employee, client, and industry friend. Her work ethic is second to none, and her authentic, caring nature about those around her, the communities where APCO operates, and doing the right thing for our profession are exemplary.

However, the most impressive and important influence she’s instilled in me personally is that, even with her selflessness to the profession, our company, everyone who works with her and her friends, she always made time for family, and put family first. With the demanding schedule of a global CEO, she did not miss the birth of a single grandchild– all nine of them– and made sure she was at every milestone event for her children, grandchildren, and step-grandson.

If she said she would be there, she was there, no matter what came up, cheering the loudest at my softball games, giving hugs and kisses at her grandchildren’s birthday parties. And, by the way, taking a 6:00 AM flight back to Baltimore tomorrow morning, so she doesn’t miss Grandparent’s Day for my 3-year-old and 4-year-old, which is taking place tomorrow at their school. Helping us when our spouses had surgery, or, in the case of my brother, recovering from cancer. And the list goes on.

She really showed me what a life of purpose could look like, and that even as a woman and a mom, I could have a professional career and still be equally successful at home, raising my own family. This is just a small glimpse into an amazing woman who has friends all over the world, an internationally renowned reputation, and is also, most importantly, a mom and a grandma, and she loves us unconditionally. So–


That’s the end, too. Tonight, I couldn’t be more proud to introduce Margery Kraus, as this year’s recipient for the Milestone in Mentoring Award for the Agency Category.


MARGERY KRAUS: I don’t know how you follow that. It’s hardly recognizable to me. But, you know, there’s a lot of things in life to be thankful for. And I think, at this moment in time when we all have seen so much suffering, I’m reminded every day of how lucky I am, not just to be standing here and recognized by your friends and your colleagues, but to have the benefit of such a supporting family. And Mara is the youngest of my three children. Two of them are at APCO.

And if anybody ever wonders why the company’s been a success, I think you just found the reason. I get much too much credit for this. And I think that one of the highest honors for me, Mara, is being your mother. So, thank you very much.


I just wanted to say a few words. First of all, I wanted to thank the Plank Center, whose mission, I think, is so important to all of us. And while I never knew Betsy Plank, I think that we probably shared not only a passion for the profession, but I think that her pioneering spirit is something that we all aspire to. And standing here as a woman, I take great pride in having this award in the name of the Plank Center, because I think that being recognized in her honor is a very big honor for me, and probably all the other women who follow in these footsteps.

And earlier in the day, we were talking about this gap between men and women, this bridge, about how we think about things. But I think that it’s probably a much smaller gap than people think. It’s covered a lot by hard work and dedication. And I think people like Betsy Plank kind of lead the way on that.

She once famously said that “public relations is fundamental to a democratic society, where people make decisions every day in the workplace, the marketplace, the community, the voting booth. Its primary mission is to forge responsible relationships of understanding, trust, respect among groups and individuals.”

And as you heard, my start in my professional life was as a 12th-grade civics teacher. So, I take this mission of responsible citizenship very– it’s very important to me. And it’s one that I’ve tried to not only live by but teach by. I started my career as a teacher and I feel honored to be here tonight, getting this award, being kind of recognized as a teacher and a mentor. So, I thank you all very much for that.

And so, I just wanted to express that. And I know you’re going to hear this over and over from all of us, but this is a very close profession. And I have learned so much from people being honored tonight. And I think the biggest privilege, really, is to be among this company of people.

And I’m relatively new to the profession, I think, compared to some of the other people who are here. I didn’t start in an agency. I never even knew what an agency was until I tried to build one. So, I was really naive about all of this. It just was kind of a glorious accident.

But I think that the closer you get to people who have this kind of quality about them, as you saw with Steve, and Nick, and certainly with John, and everybody else who will be up here, I feel really privileged to be in that company. So, thank you all very much. And thank you, Mara. So, I guess we’ll go home together.


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