A Note from the CEO: The Power of Public Media

March 23, 2016

Participants from the Power of Public media program stand on stage together.


For nearly a decade, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has committed to strengthening public media in the areas of digital innovation, diversity and dialogue through community engagement. These “Three D’s” were exemplified by the honorees and guest speakers at our Power of Public Media program at the APTS Public Media Summit in Washington, D.C.

These CPB honorees and speakers have dedicated themselves to improving civil society in many ways: working in partnership with America’s public media stations to foster healthy communities; supporting veterans as they reenter civilian life; and serving as champions to help young people succeed in school and beyond.

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard accepts the Thought Leader Award from CPB president and CEO Pat Harrison.
Congresswoman Roybal-Allard with CPB president Pat Harrison. Photo by Joyce Boghosian.

The 2016 CPB Thought Leader Award was presented to U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard of California for her commitment to early childhood education and for her efforts on behalf of working families, veterans and members of the military.

Reflecting on her support for public media, Roybal-Allard said it was “made stronger by CPB’s commitment to take special care to reach our most vulnerable and underserved communities, like the ones I represent,” adding that “CPB’s American Graduate initiative is a wonderful example of this devotion to our most vulnerable students.”

We also heard a moving testimony about the power of community from executive director of Alabama Public Television Roy Clem. Roy’s childhood was marked by hardship and homelessness. He recalled community organizations that supported him as a child and helped him develop a desire to serve others.

These experiences led Roy to public media—an industry that reaches beyond broadcasting and looks to address the needs of local communities. Through his leadership at APTV, Roy uses public media and community partnerships to benefit the unserved and underserved.

Alongside CPB's Deb Sanchez, APTV's Roy Clem presents YMCA's Stan Law with the American Graduate Champion Award.
CPB's Deb Sanchez and APTV's Roy Clem presented Stan Law with an American Graduate Champion Award. 
Photo by Joyce Boghosian.

Roy Clem’s partnership with Stan Law, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Birmingham, has leveraged the power of public media in measurable ways. They created an innovative public-private partnership that employs public media content to strengthen reading and math skills in Birmingham’s at-risk children.

Five years ago, CPB embarked with public media stations across the country on the American Graduate initiative. At a time when one million boys and girls were failing to graduate from high school every year, we discovered that—given a chance in the form of just one caring adult—a young person can be inspired to stay in school. Now more than 8,000 local and national champions have been recognized through public media stations’ American Graduate programs.

Stan Law, a 2016 CPB American Graduate Champion Award recipient, grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he saw first-hand the effects of poverty and developed a lifelong commitment to helping those in need. In his leadership role at the YMCA of Greater Birmingham, Stan focuses on recognizing the potential of every young person the YMCA serves, and he credits public media for advancing those efforts.

“The YMCA has a shared vision with American Graduate—that all kids deserve the opportunity to discover who they are and what they want to achieve,” he said. “Here in Birmingham, our partnership with Alabama Public Television is important and valuable to the YMCA’s brand, vision and goals.”

Champions like Stan Law, and partnerships like the one between APTV and the YMCA, are providing the much-needed support that has helped move the high school graduation rate above 82 percent for the first time in U.S. history.

Dr. Victor Rios speaks at CPB's The Power of Public Media program.
Dr. Victor Rios closed the event with a moving speech. Photo by Joyce Boghosian.

We also heard from Dr. Victor Rios, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who talked about his journey from high school dropout and gang member to attending college and earning his Ph.D. Victor, whose story was featured on PBS NewsHour, also helps young people in high-poverty areas stay on the path to a high school diploma. This spring, Victor will be a featured speaker in the upcoming PBS show TED Talks Live: The Education Revolution, funded by CPB.

While each of our speakers reflected unique experiences, their stories individually and collectively affirm the power of public media—content that educates, informs and inspires to impact and change lives of our youngest to our oldest citizens.


- Pat Harrison, President & CEO, CPB