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On May 2nd, 2019, the very first Chicagoland Admin Awards Gala was hosted at the historic Hilton Palmer House Hotel. Ike Saunders, EA to Christopher Kennedy, had the incredible honor of taking home the prestigious Colleen Barrett Award for Administrative Excellence.

Ike’s acceptance speech brought down the house. It had all the best stuff that speeches are made of, it was inspirational, hysterical, surprising and had the audiences’ complete attention. It also includes an interesting twist involving the same date in Kennedy history 50 years ago to the day! Here is a complete transcript.



Ike Saunders’ Acceptance Speech Transcript:

“I would like to thank and congratulate Sunny Nunan, her assistant Dustin, and the committee members for bringing the Admin Awards to Chicago.

The vibrant, diverse, talented crowd in this room is testament to your ability to coalesce a community of incomparable administrative professionals in a city that is second to none.

To the other finalists—Kathy, Karen, and Ana—you are respected leaders in our field whose commitment to excellence has the admiration of everyone in the room this evening, especially me.

A shout-out to the greatest and most important assistant I have ever met, Amber Dow.

Amber was one of Chris’ two executive assistants who interviewed me for the second assistant role, and she is the reason I am lucky enough to have the career I have today.

To my bosses and friends, Chris and Sheila Kennedy.

If I may take a moment to share with the largest crowd I will ever have the opportunity to say this in front of—I respect you, I look up to you, and I am lucky to have you in my life.

I continue to learn from and grow because of both of you, and words will never be enough to let you know how grateful I am for the career and second family you have given me.

I truly believe I have the best job in Chicago.

Early in my career as an assistant, I was regularly asked, “So what do you do? Get coffee and pick up dry cleaning?”

I would respond, “Have you seen The Devil Wears Prada? It’s like that, only my boss is nice,” because it’s hard to explain the ins and outs of our jobs.

As time went on, I began to say more–I manage his calendar, I triage his email, I’m a travel agent, a gatekeeper.

And still, I was barely scratching the surface.

Because how could I describe to someone that time I had 14 hours to secure a Canadian Mountie uniform for Chris to wear on top of a horse I found for free so that a videographer I had identified could film Chris singing “O, Canada!” from a series of queue cards with the lyrics, all because our company’s North American Vice Presidents had lost a bet against the Canadian executive team?

The more I tried to add to the description, the more I realized I had been doing it all wrong.

In fact, I can describe the job of every assistant in the room this evening with the same four words:

“Other duties as assigned.”

And what doesn’t that cover?

Because yes, we schedule and arrange travel and draft correspondence.

But there’s also an assistant out there who’s working his magic to secure a dinner reservation for six at Alinea in just a week’s time.

There’s an assistant working 14-hour days at the end of the month to wrap up quarter-end financials.

Or navigating insurance claims or medical bureaucracy for their executive.

Or hounding department heads for material to revise and organize and distribute before the board meeting.

Or leveraging every connection she has to get a custom anniversary gift despite having had merely two days’ notice.

Or negotiating contracts for the 400-person holiday party they’ll end up managing on-site.

Or helping execute a company buy-out or leadership transition.

We as assistants learn every position in our companies, every member of our executives’ boards and families, and the leaders in our industries.

We understand food preferences and complex business relationships, industry developments and personnel dynamics, best practices for conferences and ensuring a kid’s baseball game isn’t missed.

We are strategic business partners alongside our executives, working together as a team.

We as assistants are not burdened with these responsibilities; we are entrusted with them.

The assistants in this room are gifted with the ability not only to see three steps ahead for their executives.

We also see where the speedbumps are, how much gas is in the car, when to turn, what the weather will be like, and who else is on the road.

And while tonight has given us an incredible opportunity to celebrate the hundreds of assistants gathered together, it is not the first time excellence has been celebrated on May 2.

Fifty-three years ago to the day, on May 2, 1966, several individuals were awarded Pulitzer Prizes, including a gentleman by the name of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Arthur, who was special assistant to Chris’ uncle President John F. Kennedy, was given the award for his book A Thousand Days, which detailed the triumph of the Kennedy presidency.

Arthur’s position as special assistant to the president is certainly different in many ways from the roles held by those of us in the room this evening.

However, it is a reminder that the title of assistant comes with pride and excellence, and it’s an honor for me to share the date of May 2 with another assistant to a Kennedy.

As the Admin Awards continue to spread across the country and around the world, I am honored to be a member of the excellent assistant community here in Chicago as well as a proud champion of the Admin Awards.

Thank you all very much.”

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