ASIS 2012 Kicks Off with Fifes, Franklin, General Fanfare

The 58th annual edition of ASIS International's Seminars and Exhibits showcase got off to a thoroughly colorful, musical and patriotic official start here Monday in the Terrace Ballroom at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin himself (or a decent living facsimile thereof) emceed the opening ceremony, which was in part a living history lesson celebrating the host city and in part a look forward to the security industry's future. A live soundtrack that included everything from colonial-era dance music to contemporary jazz punctuated all parts along the way.

With marching music by Philadelphia Fifes & Drums, the ceremony began with a procession of 100 flags bearing the colors of the nations in which ASIS has a presence. The faux-Franklin rightly noted that the parade needed another 32 flags to accurately reflect the full 132 ASIS global chapters.

Founded in 1955, ASIS added the word International to its name in 2002 to better reflect the growth and expansion of the society's members around the world representing all facets of the security profession.

After a presentation of Revolutionary War-era firearms by volunteers from the local Stone Ford High School band (complete with bayonets) and a quick recap by the Franklin impersonator of the "long and bitter" years that led up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a dance troupe in period clothing took the stage and regaled the several thousand ASIS attendees with yet another lesson—in how the earliest Americans were prone to celebrate their hard-fought independence by donning their best bonnets, knickers and knee socks and hitting the dance floor. In what was a slightly overlong presentation, the troupe demonstrated seven period dance steps, including everything from the always fun "Rufty Tufty" to the crowd-pleasing "Handel With Care."

Jumping ahead a couple centuries, the Franklinesque host introduced the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program as an example of how the city took progressive action when it was faced with the problem of rampant graffiti littering its public spaces several decades ago. Now the largest public art program in the United States, the idea began in 1984 as a component of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, an effort spearheaded by then Mayor Wilson Goode. Since then, more than 3,000 murals have been produced, adding to Philadelphia's "flavor" and giving rise to its nickname, "The City of Murals" (which, admittedly, is still not as well known as its other moniker, "The City of Brotherly Love").

The city turned "destructive graffiti into the constructive mural arts program," the Franklin figure noted, introducing a PowerPoint presentation showing many examples of the resulting artwork. He added, "The mural-making process gives neighborhoods a voice. It is progress that works on many levels to break the cycle of crime and violence in our communities. . . . The program shows that art has that ability to materially transform lives; it has the power to heal, to unite, and it always tells a story. It was one of my city's answers to the question, 'What works?'"

Another answer to that question then took the stage in the ensemble form of the Philadelphia Boys' Choir and Chorale, which added to the sights and sounds of celebration with four selections that brought down the house. Notably, the group's inspiring performance of "Philadelphia's Pride" had the penultimate spot in the song list.

ASIS President Eduard Emde, CPP, offered a few closing words to answer the question "What's next?" for the security industry. Succinctly put, that answer is, he said, integration.

"Many times, security programs are reactive while risk management programs are proactive. Both must be tied to budget strategy and corporate objectives," said Emde, the principal consultant for BMKISS Europe, an independent security support organization based in the Netherlands, and the first non-U.S. president of ASIS. "It is and will remain crucial to work across multiple areas to achieve cooperation between the two. In considering what's next for ASIS, I see a need for more research, philosophically and practically, and for practitioners to develop a solid research agenda based on principaled rationale and the development of security standards. I encourage practitioners to be creative in their approach to risk management and security."

Discussing today's "uncertain, ambiguous times" and echoing Yogi Berra, Emde added, "Indeed, the future ain't what it used to be." But, ending on a positive note, he said, "One thing hasn't changed over the decades and will be with us for many years to come." And with that, another troupe of wildly decorated, loudly colored musicians made its way across the ballroom, eventually reaching the stage where the Philadelphia Boys' Choir and Chorale awaited to close out the ceremony with a rousing rendition of "When You're Smiling" ("The whole world smiles with you . . . The sun comes shinin' through").

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