Excerpt from Diane Randall’s address during the Annual Meeting and Quaker Public Policy Institute, Nov. 17-21, 2021.
In her memoir, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes how she is still “becoming”:
“There’s a lot I still don’t know about America, about life, about what the future might bring. But I do know myself. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”
There are times in our lives when we think we should have everything figured out, but the fact is that we are all becoming—individually and collectively. Our story is written every day by our actions as we choose hope and work for justice. We are all becoming as we let our lives speak.
I experienced a leading to come to FCNL almost 12 years ago. Throughout the discernment process, I knew Friends held me in the Light. Despite my uncertainty, I knew working with FCNL represented a new chapter in my becoming. FCNL’s vision of the world we seek captured my moral imagination.
When the General Committee approved my appointment in 2010, it conveyed a trust in Divine Guidance. It is that trust in the movement of the Spirit in our life together that binds us together; and it is our trust in God’s abiding love that allows our comprehension of continuing revelation, our evolution, our becoming.
That we are a Quaker organization operating from the spirit of love and that we remain open to Divine revelation means that we will never be finished.
In the past decade, FCNL has evolved, and we will continue to evolve—to become—as we live into the possibilities of the beloved community in a society that is racked by violence, inequity, inhumanity, and planetary peril.
FCNL must continue to evolve because the world is more complex. Our comprehension of politics and culture is shaped not only by what FCNL focuses on, but by the availability of instantaneous news, information, and entertainment at our fingertips, individually curated and fed to us by algorithms.
FCNL is becoming more diverse. In addition to claiming our Quaker identity, we have become more explicit in naming and including people with other identities—through our staff, the people who participate in our programs, and our governance. Our vision to seek equity and justice for all and a community in which everyone’s potential can be fulfilled is not only for the rest of the world; it’s also for FCNL. It is who we are becoming.
Even as my heart is full of hope and gratitude for this growth in my decade of service with FCNL, my heart is also broken and tender by the fractures in our society. My heart is broken that our political leaders have not acted to stop the pain and suffering of millions of human beings across the globe who face violence, poverty, insecurity, and the global pandemic. I fear for the very future of our planet as we face the crises that humans have caused and have not yet solved.
Political realities require us to evolve. When I spoke at Annual Meeting ten years ago after working at FCNL for about eight months, I told the General Committee that we needed to be bold, strategic, and relentless in our advocacy for the world we seek.
And we have been.
We have been bold in building a bigger, stronger FCNL. Over the past ten years, our staff size has more than doubled to over 60 positions, and our annual budget has grown to almost $9.5 million this year. We have established new young adult programs, new advocacy and outreach programs that reach across the country and support persistent, relationally driven advocacy.
Our growth has been guided by the priorities of the successful five-year capital campaign, and by our current Forward Plan, which has mapped our strategic goals. This growth has been possible because this General Committee and those who have served earlier; our current staff and those who have worked at FCNL in the past decade have helped make FCNL bigger and bolder with a readiness to take up persistent advocacy on difficult issues—and see problems in a new light.
We are bold in laying out an ambitious legislative agenda, but it is essential for us to be strategic in how we advocate.
We have used the power of our grassroots network to bolster the advocacy of our lobbyists on the Hill. When the history of repealing the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) is written, FCNL will be in that story. Your persistent and strategic focus on the repeal of this outdated statute is a vital step toward the world we seek—a world free of war and the threat of war.
This, along with the 2015 approval of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2018 passage of the First Step Act, and the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2019 are huge victories for our strategic lobbying at FCNL.
Our strategic advocacy and these legislative victories would not be possible without persistence. We are willing to work for many years to achieve success, and we are relentless in pressing onward to realize the full ambition of our goals.
If ever you feel tired or discouraged or eve nhave a sense of despair about the challenges that confront us, I encourage you to continue choosing hope. Hebrews 11:1 has been a mantra for me during my work at FCNL: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
I came to work at FCNL because I wanted to lobby for the policies that move our world toward peace, equity, justice, and care of our environment. Over the past 10 years, I have learned that FCNL is not only a lobbying organization; we are practicing public theology.
That we are a Quaker organization operating from the spirit of love and that we remain open to Divine revelation means that we will never be finished; we cannot stop acting for justice and peace and protecting our planet.
I hope FCNL’s evolution is always a story of spiritual presence set in this very political environment.
I have learned that FCNL is not only a lobbying organization; we are practicing public theology.
I want to close with a story I will always carry with me: In 2011, I traveled to Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Gaza. It was both an enchanting and disturbing journey. Every person we talked with—whether Israeli or Palestinian—told us generational stories of oppression and hope.
Throughout the journey we asked, “What should we tell people in Congress and our colleagues at FCNL about the situation you are living in, about peace?”
In Gaza, we were invited to the home of a Palestinian family.
Nazim, the father of the household, spoke not about policies or politics, but he spoke to my heart: “Tell them we’re human. Tell them we’re human beings.”
This longing of every soul to be seen, to be known as a human being is a truth I think about daily in our work at FCNL. As we lobby, we are claiming the humanity of every human being and that every human is a beloved child of God.
I firmly believe that as FCNL continues to become, we will remain steadfast in answering to that of God in every human being.
FCNL has a unique voice in the cacophony of our current political life; and ours is a story of courage and persistence.
As we pursue the world we seek, let us choose hope and abide in love.