Tributes to Bill Porter

ICF’s Founder, Bill Porter, died on 1 April 2009, and we reproduce here some of the tributes we received.

Easter Tribute to Bill

by Bernard Margueritte, ICF President

I met Bill Porter for the first time in 1994 during a dinner at the house of Bryan and Anne Hamlin. It was undoubtedly a sign of the Divine Providence. I was at that time Fellow at Harvard Shorenstein Center discussing the future and the mission of the media in a brilliant and scholarly manner. I was in a way prepared to hear Bill’s message about the role of the media in society, our credibility and dignity. I came however to the dinner not expecting much from this meeting with an elderly gentleman. And it changed my life.

Bill had this incredible aura found very rarely: being with him you had immediately the feeling that you can totally trust him, that everything in him is genuine, that you are with him touching the core of the matter. At the end of this Cambridge dinner I knew that I will jump on board of the ICF.

The founder of the ICF in his usual speech was not saying terribly unexpected things. He spoke as many others about the need for honest media as pillars of democracy, building a new covenant in a world desperately in need of a new humanism. But when it was said by Bill it worked, even to me and even when I was hearing the speech for the 40th time! The secret was simple: everyone understood that Bill was not simply toying with ideas. He was engaging the whole of himself, as a man of profound dignity. He was telling the truth, the truth he experienced in his life.

Bill is also a symbol for everyone of us that everything is always possible in life, at any point in life. I remember a conference in Glasgow when a young professor suddenly told him that he was sick to see people, who acted foolishly all their active life suddenly discovering the truth and starting to teach others at the age of 70. I was shocked and upset, but Bill was merely astonished and remained silent. I asked him afterwards why. He said, with his profound honesty and humility: “well, maybe he had a point, here!” We know that it was not so, that Bill was linked with Moral Rearmament already in his young days, but it is true that his work to build and expand the ICF was the work of his life, the new life he found indeed at 70.

This is why it was such an emotional moment for me when on some July day in Caux in 2001 Bill came and convinced me at length that I am the one who should continue his work. This is also why after Bill’s passing, I am overwhelmed by such a feeling of responsibility. One thing is sure: no matter the difficulties, we have to continue Bill’s work! The only tribute we should pay to Bill should not be in words but in what we do to continue what he inspired us to do.

One so touching characteristic of Bill was that he was always looking forward, planning ahead. The last time we spoke on the phone he was full of joy to go to Saint-Tropez, happy that he would take part in June in the IPI conference in Helsinki, making plans about another trip to Canada. I have no doubt that now Bill is still planning the future of the ICF, looking to help us achieve our common goals. We have now a powerful ally over there!

Bill had also a remarkable, deliciously British, sense of humour. One day when we were traveling by car in the north of France, he told me suddenly: “you know, Bernard, I was not a bad man after all; I will probably end up in heaven; but I don’t know if I should. Do you know if they have over there such charming country roads leading to the nice restaurant where we will soon be?” and, before I could answer, Bill added: “and besides I am not sure I will meet there many of my friends!” Well, Bill, I don’t know if you have there nice restaurants, but I am sure that you have the best that you so rightly deserved and let me hope that someday after all we will meet you there, waiting for the Resurrection we are now celebrating!

Thoughts on Bill and the ICF

Tribute by Hugh Nowell given at Bill’s funeral

Le Touquet, 4th April 2009

A Swiss friend wrote to me yesterday, ‘A very special, wonderful journey has continued beyond our reach’

And what a journey! I was with him in Caux, Switzerland in the summer of 1990 when he outlined to a few friends his vision for the media. He asked for help. So I volunteered to give him some names. Now, 19 years later we can see the astonishing work he has done through the International Communications Forum. Barely a week has passed during this period when we were not in touch to chew things over and for me to receive tips on what I could do!

The Forum has taken us around the world – Sydney, Nizhny Novgorod, Capetown, Chicago, touching 3,000 media professionals in 116 countries. Roger Parkinson, Publisher of the Toronto Globe and Mail said, when he was President of the World Association of Newspapers, that the ICF had put the issue of the effect of the media on society on the world’s agenda.

We are a band of brothers and sisters led by Bill in uncharted territory. Not looking for an organisational solution, but a conscience to conscience approach to bring change. At the outset, Bill conducted an interview with himself on his performance as a publisher. He was not impressed. He decided that his motivation to make money and be important was not enough. He set out to encourage everyone to rise to the great role the media can play in building a world that works.

At all times the world network of Initiatives of Change was available to support his task. The current President of IofC, Rajmohan Gandhi, whose grandfather the world respects, has sent his appreciation of Bill.

‘No matter how 'predictable' in view of his precarious health, this is stunning news. We had grown accustomed to and dependent on Bill's fighting spirit, his wit, his resilience. He loved the media but demanded high standards from it, and he demanded them with such charm that editors the world over thanked him for his pressure. His faith communicated itself to others because it was so honest and also so unconquerable -- it was the complete confidence of one who wore his vulnerability on his sleeve but kept God firmly in his heart.

And what an incredible bridge he was across the Channel.

This is a huge loss to the media world and to the world of Initiatives of Change and to his family. But his memory will continue to inspire us.’

Bill Porter, fondateur du Forum international de la Communication, nous a quittés

Par Jean Jacques Odier, ICF France

Notre cher ami Bill Porter, fondateur du Forum international de la Communication, nous a quittés le 1er avril à l’âge de 88 ans. Peu après la seconde guerre mondiale, il a consacré plusieurs années en France à un travail de médiation qui a contribué notamment à la réalisation des premiers accords paritaires dans l’industrie.

Bill s’est ensuite investi dans le monde de l’édition, devenant directeur général de la filiale britannique de la multinationale Kluwer. Conscient des lacunes des médias dans leurs responsabilités à l’égard du public et de la société, il a fondé en 1990, à sa retraite, le Forum international de la Communication, une incitation à l’éthique qu’il considérait comme une activité « de conscience à conscience » et qu’il a animée avec une énergie peu commune, malgré une santé fragile. Il a organisé dans cet esprit une trentaine de conférences, de Denver à Nijni-Novgorod et de Melbourne au Cap. Dans un hommage qu’il lui a rendu, le journaliste et écrivain Rajmohan Gandhi, président d’Initiatives et Changement International, écrit : « Il avait une grande exigence de la part des médias, mais il la manifestait avec un si grand charme que des journalistes du monde entier le remerciaient pour la pression qu’il exerçait sur eux. »

Bill Porter repose auprès de sa femme Sonja, décédée en 1990, dans le cimetière de la ville du Touquet où le couple s’était installé depuis sa retraite. Mais pour Bill, peut-on parler de retraite?

His fighting spirit will continue to inspire us

by Rajmohan Gandhi, International President, Initiatives of Change

No matter how 'predictable' in view of his precarious health, this is stunning news. We had grown accustomed to and dependent on Bill's fighting spirit, his wit, his resilience. He loved the media but demanded high standards from it, and he demanded them with such charm that editors the world over thanked him for his pressure. His faith communicated itself to others because it was so honest and also so unconquerable -- it was the complete confidence of one who wore his vulnerability on his sleeve but kept God firmly in his heart.

And what an incredible bridge he was across the Channel.

This is a huge loss to the media world and to the world of Initiatives of Change and to his family. But his memory will continue to inspire us.

See also by clicking here tributes at Memorial Service