1. Background
  2. Voting & Elections, Immigrants & Refugees, U.S. Wars & Militarism

The Possibilities

By Diane Randall, August 1, 2016


We recognize that building peace and countering injustice require systemic change as well as personal change. This change requires us to be directly involved as constituents. It requires us to evaluate the candidates and vote for the people we believe are best qualified to lead our country and to govern fairly—even if those candidates don’t represent us on every issue.

Peace is Possible. Love Thy Neighbor.

These are the messages I see every day as I walk into my office on Capitol Hill. On small slabs of granite embedded in the garden around the FCNL building, we share the vision of the world we seek with people passing by and with those who linger on our benches: a world free of war and the threat of war, a society with equity and justice for all, a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled, and an earth restored.

The banner on the side of the building promotes our social media campaign: #LoveThyNeighbor (No Exceptions). Our small building, located in the center of our Capitol’s power corridor, conveys these hopeful messages that are essential in this tumultuous campaign season that is too often filled with exclusion, division, and hate.

The visible reminders I see every day encourage me, but what gives life to these statements is the work we do together to make peace possible, to love our neighbors, and to counter injustice through active constituent engagement: our lobbying here on the Hill and the lobbying the FCNL network does across the country.

Regarding each other with love and respect, rather than with fear and suspicion, is essential to the strong social fabric of our communities. We witness the gaps in this social fabric, torn by racial injustice, religious intolerance, and fear of others. Some of us experience this injustice firsthand. It takes work to live among and love those who we define as different from us and those with whom we disagree. When we stand against Islamophobia, when we comprehend the implicit racial bias that both fosters and feeds on institutional racism, we recognize that our everyday interactions to “love thy neighbor with no exceptions” demand that we are willing to encounter others and to listen in new ways.

Systemic Change for Peace and Justice

We recognize that building peace and countering injustice require systemic change as well as personal change. This change requires us to be directly involved as constituents. It requires us to evaluate the candidates and vote for the people we believe are best qualified to lead our country and to govern fairly—even if those candidates don’t represent us on every issue. Systemic change requires us to work with our elected officials and to seek the changes in the laws of our federal government necessary to build peace and justice.

This is FCNL’s work—to joyfully, with hope and persistence, talk to members of Congress and those in the executive branch about public policies that advance peace, justice, and sustainability.

This is FCNL’s work: to joyfully, with hope and persistence, talk to members of Congress and those in the executive branch about public policies that advance peace, justice, and sustainability. Today, more than ever, the work of FCNL speaks the truth that we know to those in governmental positions of authority and to those who seek public office.

At FCNL, we talk to every member of Congress to ask for their support on key legislation. This approach produces results, as FCNL advocates experienced at our November lobby day last year. One group from a southern state met with their senator’s aide, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense, and discussed how supporting a greater focus on atrocities prevention would be consistent with the senator’s priorities. Participants in the visit remarked on the congenial, open nature of the meeting.

The staff member closed the meeting by saying he would recommend the senator’s support for atrocities prevention legislation. This year, the senator has been a champion on U.S. efforts to prevent violence, atrocities, and genocide, and is a lead sponsor of bipartisan legislation.

FCNL Advocacy Corps: New Voices for Justice

One of the most divisive issues in the presidential campaign this year is immigration. While significant majorities of the public believe that action to fix our immigration system is essential, the steps to achieve that have split both Congress and communities, often with virulent rhetoric and at times with violence. FCNL is asking Congress for bipartisan support to address comprehensive immigration reform. We are thrilled to have a new cadre of young people working with us in key congressional districts.

Our Advocacy Corps, a group of 18 young adults who have committed to lobbying in their local districts with FCNL over the next 10 months, will be using their own stories to talk to members of Congress about comprehensive immigration reform. Representing 15 states, these new advocates will organize people in their communities to engage in civil dialogue with each other and with their members of Congress. They'll build support for comprehensive immigration reform as a priority for their communities and our country.

FCNL has equipped the Advocacy Corps through a 10 day intensive training program in August to prepare them for the organizing and lobbying they’ll do in their home states. During their training, they heard from staffers in congressional offices, in the White House, and in FCNL. They received advice to “tell your stories” and that “what moves people is the human experience.” When we engage with lawmakers and their staffs on a person to person basis, we build a relationship and our message is heard in a new way. Advising the Advocacy Corps about their lobbying, one speaker noted: “It’s our job to remind our legislators that their decisions are about people’s lives.”

Work for the Common Good

Because our lawmakers are making decisions about people’s lives—about immigration, peace, criminal justice, climate change, and every one of the priorities we care about—we must be willing to work with them.

In these months approaching the election, I encourage you to get engaged in the political process by asking questions of the candidates, by volunteering for their campaigns, by voting on Election Day, and by staying in contact with those who are elected.

Our elected officials need constituents who will encourage, teach, appreciate, and hold them accountable to work for the common good. Like all of us, they listen to people around them: people they have relationships with. Developing relationships with those with whom we disagree, or those we would expect more of, can be a spiritual exercise.

Encounters with staff and lawmakers that are respectful and regular can help make peace possible and turn the systems of injustice toward a more just society. Multiply these conversations by tens, hundreds, thousands more like them, and we start to see movement toward the world we seek. This practice of lobbying that is respectful and that stays open to the possibilities of “yes” is the way we turn love and faith into action.

Faith into Action

I invite you to let your heart break open to the possibilities as we consider what it means to love all of our neighbors now.

The coming weeks and months will not be easy. This election season has, even more than usual, foregrounded our divisions. But now we must take on the real work: finding the common ground that lies beneath.

The Quaker author Parker J. Palmer speaks of the difference between the heart breaking apart and the heart breaking open. In his book Healing the Heart of Democracy, Palmer states that, while our hearts at times will be “broken by loss, failure, defeat, betrayal, or death,” if our hearts break open rather than apart, we will have “greater capacity to hold the complexities and contradictions of human experience,” resulting in new opportunities and the ability to hold our differences creatively.

When we take into our hearts the “troubles of this world,” we may still feel discouraged, but we may also the clarity and drive to use our voices — not to add to the cacophony but to speak from the truth we know.

I invite you to let your heart break open to the possibilities as we consider what it means to love all of our neighbors now.

Diane Randall

  • General Secretary

Diane Randall is the General Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Diane leads FCNL’s staff to effectively educate and lobby for the policies and legislative priorities established by FCNL’s General Committee. A lifelong advocate for peace and social justice, Diane is a fierce proponent for citizen engagement that advances policies and practices to create a better society for all.