Why Invest?

Why did so many people believe in Martin Luther King and support the Civil Rights Movement? Why did so many people resonate with Pope John Paul II’s words about the dignity of each person to forge solidarity and spark the fall of Communism? King’s speech that day in 1963 at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial was not a 10 point plan on how the Civil Rights Movement would work. John Paul II’s 32 sermons in nine days on his 1979 trip to Communist Poland did not focus on what needed to change. MLK and JP II inspired people to believe in their hearts why they should take action to pursue human rights by talking about what they believed in. MLK and JP II helped people see the incredible strength in numbers. Millions came to believe in why they did what they did and joined their causes.

The AIA Virginia Political Action Committee (PAC) is the primary tool Virginia Architects have to ensure our profession remains relevant and impactful for years to come. Why invest in the PAC? We all need an answer to that fundamental question before we open up our wallets. We believe:

  • Architects speak with a unified voice to support candidates who understand our profession, regardless of party affiliation, through the AIA Virginia PAC. When these candidates win, they bring that understanding to the General Assembly and into debates on new legislation.
  • Our PAC investments provide face-to-face opportunities to educate lawmakers about what we do. The General Assembly is comprised of members of varying backgrounds, professions, experiences, and cultures. Yet, they are called upon every day to make decisions that impact our profession and the built environment including procurement, liability, funding, zoning, transportation, preservation, taxation, licensing.
  • State lawmakers are caretakers of the built environment. They come from diverse backgrounds and careers. One might be a farmer, another an attorney, another a dentist.
  • Lawmakers need and want our advice. Architects are perfectly positioned to be the authoritative voice on all matters related to the quality of the built environment. If our voice is not at the table, lawmakers will get advice from others, who may, or may not support what is important to us.
  • The PAC supports all Virginia firms because it has established a solid legal framework for practicing architecture and is essential to preserving this framework so that it continues to benefit our profession in Virginia as a whole.
  • The PAC enables us to build relationships with other key influencers to elevate our profession. One such example, our relationship with the Governor’s Director of Appointments continues to facilitate the selection of Virginia Architects for Gubernatorial Appointments.

To ensure our voice remains strong, particularly in this election year, we need members like you to believe in the value of the PAC and support the cause. For only 10 cents a day, you can make a positive influence on the future of our profession. Please consider making an investment of $36.50 today. Visit aiavapac.org to learn more and make your investment. Participation at any level is the key, not the actual amount because there is considerable strength in numbers. Investing in the PAC is a relatively small individual step that collectively has a significant impact on our profession and the quality of the built environment.

Sean E. Reilly, AIA
AIA Virginia 2021 President
AIA Virginia PAC Board of Trustees Member

Speaking Up with a Unified Voice

In yet another adaptation to the pandemic, AIA’s signature leadership and advocacy event, Grassroots 2021 was held last month in a virtual format.  The conference included a wide range of leadership programs and biennial Hill Visits with federal lawmakers.  In one memorable session, Robert Nichols, Assoc. AIA gave an inspiring presentation on the work of the World Deaf Architecture Association, which he co-founded.  Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Nichols spoke of the importance of courage when engaging people that have different backgrounds than your own, sharing this quote:

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.  Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Winston Churchill

Mr. Nichols is a leader with tremendous courage, perseverance and passion who speaks on behalf of  architects and designers that are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing.   His leadership and advocacy has provided opportunities for networking, professional development and education worldwide.

Sean Reilly, AIA

AIA Virginia has never been more resolved to strengthening the culture of advocacy within our organization.  During this unusual time, when society and communities are facing multiple complex challenges related to the built environment, the problem-solving expertise and passion of architects are needed more than ever. AIA Virginia believes it is particularly important that we demonstrate how to advocate for architecture’s value to emerging professionals.  Inspiring architects to think of themselves as advocates for our profession and the built environment is of critical importance to the future of our profession.

One of the six goals of the 2020 – 2022 Strategic Plan is “Invest in the future generations and develop visionary leaders for service.”  In response, AIA Virginia is launching the first annual Architects Speak Up!, a structured and coordinated outreach event, which will be held during May. This event will provide an excellent opportunity for AIA Virginia members to connect with their in-district state lawmakers virtually and advocate for the value architects bring to improving people’s lives, communities and the built environment.  Key goals of this event include:

  • Inspiring and empowering members to speak up for our profession
  • Cultivating relationships with state lawmakers
  • Building advocacy capacity throughout the local components
  • Training members to become an integral part of advocacy
  • Growing the culture of the AIA Virginia PAC

Participants will be equipped with knowledge, insights, tools, and resources to communicate effectively with confidence in the legislative meetings. See the post in this Newsletter to register for Architects Speak Up!

While AIA members broadly view advocacy as a core member value and need, the percentage of members who engage in advocacy is quite low. Traditionally, many architects think advocacy is something done by a few people.  One of the key goals of Architects Speak Up! is to inspire a greater number of architects to become advocates.


Because there is strength in numbers and the decisions of lawmakers and other key influencers impact all architects, their businesses and the communities they serve. By increasing our advocacy capacity Virginia architects will expand their influence at all levels of state and local government and use it for the purpose of having a seat at the table when bills are crafted on the big issues of our time: access to affordable housing; resilience and climate change; justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, amongst other issues. We can begin by empowering the next generation to speak up on behalf of our profession to improve people’s lives and transform the built environment.

Sean E. Reilly, AIA
AIA Virginia President
AIA Virginia PAC Board of Trustees member

Further Together

It’s been said that the darkest part of the night comes just before dawn.  The new year holds a promise with vaccines starting to roll out, renewed focus on social justice and movement on climate action. We move forward with hope.

Looking Back

Sean Reilly, AIA

We’ve all been warmed by fires we did not build.  I am so grateful for the hard work of all our past AIA Virginia executive vice-presidents, staff members, presidents and boards.  On behalf of our profession, I want to thank my predecessor, 2020 President Beth Reader, FAIA for her effective and grace-filled leadership through an unprecedented, yet highly productive year.  We move forward with a solid foundation and momentum.   

Looking Ahead

In a few days, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day and in February, Black History Month when we as a nation celebrate the achievements of and pay tribute to generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in America.  I am inspired by the life story of Congressman John Lewis whose mission was creating a future without racism.

“We must use our time and our space on this little planet that we call Earth to make a lasting contribution, to leave it a little better than we found it” 

Rep. John Lewis

John struggled to overcome obstacles his entire life starting right at the beginning, growing up the son of sharecroppers near Troy, Alabama.  As a child, he enjoyed feeding and caring for the family chickens.  One day, there was a terrible storm with high gusty winds.  John joined hands with his aunt, siblings and cousins, over a dozen of them as they moved their small bodies around trying to keep the swaying, creeking little wooden house on its foundations.  Young John Lewis learned about working with others toward a common goal that day.  As a human rights protector and congressman, Lewis was able to go far toward achieving his life’s mission by working with others.

The 2021 AIA Virginia team is dedicated to going far to achieve its mission of serving our members, advancing their value, and improving the quality of the built environment. The AIA Virginia Board consists of 27 individuals from around the state with members from each Chapter, the accredited schools of architecture, an Associate Director and Executive Vice-President (EVP).  The Board is supported by an outstanding staff of four led by our EVP, Corey Clayborne.    

AIA Virginia’s Board is grouped into four Councils that develop and implement the 2020 – 2022 Strategic Plan including Advocacy, Education, Member Services and Outreach. Six goals that guide the Councils’ efforts include:

  • Develop our future leaders
  • Celebrate design excellence that reflects who want to be as a profession
  • Advance initiatives that support Justice, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity
  • Broaden our tent through strategic partnerships
  • Help you get the most out of your membership
  • Be a financially strong and growing organization

Implementation of these goals is creating a vibrant and engaged membership, inspired to make a positive impact on people’s lives and their communities.   

There is an African proverb:  “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”  The AIA provides each of us the opportunity to go further together toward achieving our professional mission and goals. You are an important part of this work and we are here to support you.  We believe you will find the connections, resources and services AIA Virginia provides to be valuable to your careers and firms.  

If you have already renewed your membership – Thank You!  If not, you can renew here www.aia.org/renew. If you are not sure about renewing, I would welcome a personal call or email from you.  We need your input to continue to provide the level of service members expect and be the voice of the architecture profession in the Commonwealth.

I am grateful for the privilege and opportunity to serve as your AIA Virginia 2021 President.  I hope 2021 is a more just, peace-filled and healthy year for all of us.

Sean Reilly, AIA
AIA Virginia President
Direct: 703-592-9135