Letter from the New AEU President, Richard Koral
Following our successful Assembly in Albany, NY, this summer offers a good time to reflect on where we are today as a Movement and where we are going in the future. The Assembly marked a watershed for the Ethical Culture Movement in several ways and it offers us new momentum, inspiration, and hope on which we can build through the coming year and beyond.
The 2012 Assembly program was extraordinarily moving. Following a full day of workshops about planning for Society growth, on Saturday we heard from a broad array of people and organizations actively challenging the criminal corrections system in our country under the unifying theme of "humanizing criminal justice." America, the land of the free, imprisons a greater portion of its population than any other country in the world. In some communities, the majority of the male population is tainted with a criminal record thereby barring them from employment, licensing, government services, and voting rights. An underclass is being cultivated by government actions. It is hoped that for the coming year we, as a Movement, examine this issue and engage with it. There is room for important reform and there are strong efforts to block them, including powerful business interests that profit greatly from prison management. All Societies are encouraged to program some portion of their own Platforms this year with these issues in mind.
The Assembly reflected an important beginning in another way as well. The AEU Board appointed Bart Worden as the new Executive Director of the American Ethical Union
. Many of us know Bart as the Leader of the Westchester Society; or as the director for several years of the Lay Leadership Summer School; or as the past President of the National Leaders Council; or as a member of the AEU Board and numerous committees, taskforces, and other things as well, I'm sure. Past executive directors were hired as outsiders for their management skills. This time we looked for leadership within Ethical Culture. After having engaged in a listening tour of all the regions, the Strategic Planning Committee heard loud and clear that our membership wanted coherent leadership for the Movement as a whole. Bart developed a plan to do just that and he is now beginning to implement it by reaching out to the Societies over the next year.
We also saw the retirement from the AEU Board of two members after long and important service. They represent an entire decade of leadership: Jennifer Scates (Austin), who was President of the AEU for four years, and Arnold Fishman (Philadelphia) who had been President for five years before her. (Mary Wittrey of St. Louis was President for one year in there, too.) We wish them the best and ask that they not stray too far!
So now I, Richard Koral (Westchester Society), have been tapped to preside over the AEU Board for the next year. I am humbled, awed, gratified, and challenged by this assignment. It represents the passing of a torch that has been burning continuously for 136 years since the founding of the Movement. A deep, rich, and passionate legacy is entrusted to our collective hands. It is our duty and our mission to cultivate it and thereby bring out the best in ourselves and in our message.
This will be a year of reflection, consolidation, re-energizing, and growth for the Movement as a whole. With a new Executive Director acting as a focal point, we will reorganize our efforts to share our skills and experience so that all our Societies can operate effectively and grow. We need everyone's help. Please share your best practices, your best successes, and your best advice with other Societies so they can learn and benefit. At the center of this federation, the AEU will serve as the central clearinghouse of ideas through workshops and programs both at the annual Assemblies and in between. By working together to cultivate our communities and to broadcast our message, the Ethical Culture Movement will be a force for good in the world.