Shortly after she began working at FCNL, Diane Randall recalls being stopped in her tracks by a clear internal message from Spirit encouraging her in the work of FCNL. The voice echoed Hebrew 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” She had no idea how much her faith in a loving, compassionate God would be her strong anchor in the 10 years she served as FCNL general secretary.
Diane’s faith and hope provided solid ground for the organization to flourish.
It was an unprecedented decade marked by political, partisan conflict in Congress; unending war; surging migration worldwide; great social movements; chaotic elections; gaping wealth inequality; an insurrection on Capitol Hill; a renewed recognition of white supremacy and structural racism; an ongoing pandemic; and the calamitous effects of climate change. Despite the turmoil, Diane’s faith and hope, and the persistent and prophetic work of generations of the FCNL community, provided solid ground for the organization to flourish.
For nearly a decade following 9/11 and the subsequent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, FCNL had maintained a steady drumbeat of advocacy around the theme, “War Is Not the Answer.” Upon her arrival in 2011, Diane observed a noticeable shift in language and tone in the media and on Capitol Hill, denoting growing disapproval of the ubiquitous “War on Terror.”
As the United States evolved its approach to military engagement around the globe to funding weapons sales that fueled humanitarian crises, FCNL responded by lobbying Congress to take back its constitutional authority to declare war and shift the foreign policy focus from fearful response to peaceful prevention of violent conflict. This pivot would prove beneficial in achieving the long game policy wins FCNL has become known for.
One win occurred in July 2015 with the signing of the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which FCNL’s networks and staff lobbyists had long advocated for. Following President Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the JCPOA, FCNL continued its advocacy to prevent war with Iran.
Then in 2019, after 15 years of faithful advocacy by FCNL and its coalition partners, President Trump signed the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (P.L. 115-441) into law. It ensures coordination among U.S. government departments to prevent global atrocities from occurring, and mandating training to identify early warning signs of genocide.
With her state-level policy experience, Diane also encouraged the growth of FCNL’s domestic portfolio by building greater organizational capacity to hire more lobbyists. Victory came when the FIRST STEP Act (P.L. 115- 391) was signed into law in December 2018. Though imperfect, this bill is critical to reforming the U.S. criminal justice system.
FCNL’s capital campaign raised $17.5 million for expanded young adult programs.
Diane’s tenure also featured significant internal growth. Launched when she arrived, FCNL’s capital campaign, “The World We Seek; Now Is the Time,” raised $17.5 million for expanded young adult programs (which, Diane affirms, “were already well-established and successful”). It also funded a refreshed Friend in Washington program, created the Quaker Welcome Center, and increased FCNL’s endowment for lobbying. In renovating the 205 C Street building, it also created an apartment for the Friends in Washington program.
Launched as an internship program in the 1970s, the Program Assistants (formerly the Young Fellows), program has become integral to FCNL life. FCNL also tripled its annual attendance at Spring Lobby Weekend, and in 2015, established an eight-week paid summer internship for college students. That same year, FCNL created the Advocacy Corps, which Diane credits younger staff for catalyzing. Diane says, “This program has enriched FCNL with new people and in places we had not previously reached.”
Diane later worked with both staff and governance on a Forward Plan in 2017 to enhance FCNL’s capacity. It invests in more staff for lobbying, engagement of advocates across the country, Quaker outreach, and media and marketing. It also established a stronger administrative foundation for FCNL, the FCNL Education Fund, and the newly acquired Friends Place on Capitol Hill (formerly William Penn House).
Amid the uncertainty of the COVID–19 pandemic, staff and committee members have felt the loss of in-person connection. Nevertheless, new technologies enabled FCNL to fully connect with Capitol Hill and teach people across the country how to effectively lobby virtually. FCNL has more than doubled its active online network of advocates and is attracting more people—most of whom are not Quaker—to join its ranks as advocates, donors, or both.
Over the years, Diane believes what has helped to ground the staff—which has increased to over 60 people as of late 2021—is its enduring sense of community and commitment to advocating for the world we seek. During this time, FCNL also turned inward, addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion, reflecting specifically on how to unite people of different backgrounds and experiences.
Diane says, “The focus on becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization is essential for FCNL—in our interactions with one another, and through every aspect of how we live into the world.”
During a particularly polarizing time in U.S. history, the fact that conversations are taking place, that the voices of FCNL’s network from every state are being heard by members of Congress is what perpetuates a sense of hope. “Our relationship-building with congressional offices and with our coalition partners in Washington, D.C., is so important to our persistent faithfulness,” she says.
As a senior member of Congress recently told FCNL Advocacy Teams, “We need the Friends.”
Excerpt from the forthcoming book, Leading with Hope, Faith, and Love: The Diane Randall Collection. Essay written with the assistance of Kristen Archer.