Pat Fili Matrix Speech

8:25 pm Speeches - scripts - annual reports

April 17, 2000
Thank you, Camryn. In your honor, I feel like I should wave this award in the air and shout “This is for all the soccer moms from Queens!”

I was really delighted to have Camryn Manheim introduce me because I love seeing her face on TV. Don’t you? There’s no question – TV still showcases far too many white men and super models. But the TV landscape is finally diversifying. We’re certainly not there yet. But we’re working on it.

Diversity is an issue I have given a lot of thought – on two very different levels: as a network president, and as a mother. Without a doubt, I consider my kids my greatest accomplishment — and my greatest challenge. My son and daughter watch TV, and I know they are influenced far beyond what they see and hear.

I’m happy my daughter, in particular, can find characters like the one Camryn plays on “The Practice”: a lawyer who’s super smart, successful, sexy, secure and single. What a concept!

When I started out in the TV business in the mid ‘70s, the hottest female role models on ABC were “Charlie’s Angels.” The only show we had on that featured minority characters was “That’s My Momma.” Does anyone remember that show? I rest my case. Thankfully, some things have changed. And I’ve changed right along with them. My first job at ABC was secretary for 15 guys in the sports department. They had an office rule that no phone could ring more than twice. I never questioned this rule. What did I know – I was 21 years old.

The Xerox machine was at the other end of the building, so I spent most of my days sprinting back and forth between the copier and the phones, frantic to beat the third ring. It became a keystone cop ritual. If anyone had stopped me and said “Relax, one day you’ll be president of the network…I would have answered ‘How many copies?’ ”

I’m glad Camryn told you a little bit about my current responsibilities because sometimes I have a hard time explaining exactly what it is I do. It would be easier to define if I made widgets or flew airplanes. But I help determine what’s on TV. Recently, I read an interesting, and kind of disturbing, statistic: more people watch soap operas than read newspapers. Would I rather people read more newspapers? Certainly. But the fact remains: that big black box has power. It can entertain us and inform us, give us something to complain about or something to applaud. Move us, or get us mad. I’ll bet nearly everyone in this room has had at least one conversation about our “Millionaire” and Darva’s “Multi-Millionaire.” TV gets us talking.

My world is TV. It’s the world I can influence. One of my early mentors, when I was first getting established, advised me that the best way to make a mark was to accomplish “one big thing.” At Lifetime, my Big Thing was taking a long shot on the show “Molly Dodd,” which was the first TV network program ever resurrected for cable with original episodes.

At ABC Daytime, my Big Thing was teenage pregnancy. I was astonished when I learned that the US has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the Western world. Here in America, 4 in 10 teenage girls get pregnant at least once before reaching age 20.

Remember: I have a daughter. She’s only 7, but you can imagine what I was thinking. That prompted me to meet with our creative teams and ask what we could do. They came back with a storyline for “One Life to Live” about a teenager named Jessica who gets pregnant the first time she has sex. We ended up compiling an 11-minute video that went on to become the centerpiece of an educational promotion launched by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Now that I’m network president, I can have an even more significant impact. I can sharpen the focus on diversity – help put more minority faces on TV and, equally as important, at work behind the scenes. Adding another black character to the cast of a sitcom is the easy part. Putting more minorities in positions of real influence, giving them a chance to make their mark and add their voice – that’s going to continue to take real effort. This is not a new initiative for ABC. Over the years, we’ve made some real strides – quietly, and out of the spotlight. In January, we took things one step further and signed a diversity agreement that commits us to increasing the numbers of minorities throughout the company — from entry level assistants to presidents of departments. I take this issue personally, so I thought hard about how to change the way managers think and behave, how to spur them to take real action. So our diversity agreement includes a provision tying executive bonuses to how well those managers hire and promote minorities. I think this approach will capture my executives’ attention. If not – stay tuned.

As one of those white-haired philosophers once said: One swallow does not make a summer. But it is a beginning. We are committed to using this potent force at our disposal to achieve real change.

If I could leave you with one thought, it would be this: No matter who you are, what you do or where you work, you too can leave a mark. It doesn’t matter if that mark is carved in marble or inked on poster board. Pick something or someone you want to influence – whether it’s changing a company policy or helping a high school kid with her math. Give it some thought, and get it done. Make your mark.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the incredibly talented team of people who work alongside me every day. There are too many to mention individually, but they know who they are. They inspire me and support me. And when they think I’m wrong, they always — always — tell me. Thanks, guys.

Speaking of people who keep me grounded, I’d also like to give special mention to my husband, Ken Krushel, and my two great kids, Jacob and Kara. Like most working moms, I’m continually pulled between two worlds – do I read Harry Potter or screen another pilot? Thanks to their support, I can do both. Most of the time!

Thank you.

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