Happy New Year and welcome to the first president’s message of 2021! I want to start the new year by acknowledging the steady leadership and hard work of the people who served the NWA last year. We owe our immediate past president, our Board of Directors, our headquarters staff, and everyone who contributed on various committees and working groups a debt of gratitude. Keeping an organization like ours moving forward is a lot of work in a normal year, and you don’t need me to tell you 2020 wasn’t a normal year. And yet, the NWA is in a stronger position now than it was this time last year thanks to their efforts.
One of the first tasks for the president-elect is to decide on a theme for the year they serve as President. As I considered this year’s theme, I knew I wanted it to build on last year’s—Forward Together—and to lean into the work we began around adapting to the pandemic, addressing issues of systemic racism, and more. But it wasn’t until I stumbled across a photo of the Muskingum River Bridge in Zanesville, Ohio, that it really gelled for me.
The Muskingum River Bridge, known locally as the “Y-Bridge,” spans the confluence of the Licking and Muskingum Rivers, and in a lot of ways it symbolizes the role NWA plays in our weather enterprise. It’s not just a way from Point A to Point B. Rather, it connects three different places, spans two different river systems, and allows traffic to flow in all directions improving lives at each endpoint and beyond.
The NWA is like the Y-Bridge. Connecting with one another professionally and personally is a key feature of the NWA and our annual meeting. We all come to the NWA representing multiple communities—government, broadcast, private sector, emergency management, hobbyists, forecasters, communicators, researchers, educators, modelers, Black, white, Latino/Latina, and more. Our fascination with weather and passion further discovery is the common bond, and we use our talent and treasure in service to others through forecasts, decision support, education, research, preparation, and more.
Boil that down to its essence, and you have our theme for 2021:
Connecting Communities through Discovery and Service.
A key feature of this theme is that it is succinct yet invites exploration. There are very many layers to this that we will unpack in the coming year, including at our annual meeting this August. Our call for papers will be open soon, and I invite you to explore our theme by sharing your work with the community through an oral or poster presentation, session, or workshop.
Meanwhile, I wish you strength and grace in this new year. The scientific research, development, and rollout of a vaccine gives us hope that the dark and isolating days of this pandemic are numbered. And in its wake, we will have an opportunity to connect in ways both old and new in order to serve our communities better than we have before. I look forward to serving you as president and helping you and the NWA grow in 2021.
— NWA President Nate Johnson
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