Inside This Issue - News
NACDS' Anderson talks about ‘5th estate’
October 22nd, 2012
WASHINGTON – Associations serve a vital function as the “fifth estate” in the 21st century American democracy, National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson told an audience of more than 1,100 association members here earlier this month.
Speaking at the 13th Annual Summit Awards Dinner, presented by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) — the Center for Association Leadership, Anderson said the work of associations — particularly as advocates — reflects the core values and democratic design created by the nation’s founders.
“When you consider the history of our nation, and the way in which our experiment in democracy has played out, members of NACDS and of all associations have every right to feel integral to the direction of the republic,” he said. “Engaged association members make American democracy work.”
Anderson, who also served as the event’s cochairman, referred to the “fifth estate” concept that he first described when he was named the 2004 Association Executive of the Year by the online publication Association Trends.
The executive, legislative and judicial branches of government have traditionally been called the three “estates” of government, he explained, and the media has become known as the country’s “fourth estate.”
Anderson noted that the Founding Fathers felt so strongly about the role of associations in American democracy that they codified the “fourth estate” and the “fifth estate” together in the Constitution’s First Amendment.
“The First Amendment did more than ensure freedom of the press,” Anderson told the association members. “It also guaranteed Americans the freedom of speech, the right to assemble and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
“The First Amendment has been put to the test many times since it was enacted, and a look at legal history shows that our highest courts are maintaining the sanctity of the associations the forefathers sought to protect,” he said.
The very existence of associations reinforces their role to challenge policies and issues that impact their membership, Anderson said, noting that often that role includes placing their own checks and balances on the other four estates.
“I believe our associations make the American democracy a stronger system, and make the United States of America a better place in which to live,” he said.
As vital as associations have been to the country in the past, he said, they will remain equally important going forward.