Friday, May 14, 2021


Thinking about "retiring" this month after 9 years at the ACLU of Virginia, I turned as I often do to a book by Robert Grudin – Time and the Art of Living.

The book is a collection of Grudin's meditations about time organized into chapters including "Politics of Time", "Achievement", "Growth and Age". The front flap of the book jacket describes it as a "symphony of penetrating insights and observations about time and its elusive bounty."

I've been thinking about the urgency of time a lot as I register more and more "lasts" and fewer and fewer "firsts."  So, as I approached this transition, I found inspiration, solace and clarity in some of Grudin's "thoughts."

“No psychological message is so open to question as that which tells us that we have nothing left to do or to give.”

When folks congratulate me on “retiring,” I find myself resisting as I feel strongly I have much left to do and to give.  I hope folks who have wished me well in retirement won't feel baited and switched when I keep showing up in advocacy circles.

Perhaps the reason for the resistance is that I take to heart, perhaps too much to heart, this Grudin thought: “The years forget our errors and forgive our sins, but they punish our inaction with living death.”  Inaction just isn't in my nature.

 I agree with Grudin that “No matter where we are in age, we are always in the middle of time, and must weigh our future equally with our past.”

 When I think back on the past nine years at the ACLU of Virginia, I am deeply grateful that I was allowed the privilege of having time with so many good and committed people … staff, professional colleagues, ACLU board members, our supporters, family and friends. At the same time, I look forward to the freedom to define my future free from organizational imperatives.

 Grudin says, “those who labor for bread or money alone are condemned to their reward.”

The job of Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia and all of the people associated with it have showered me with rewards -- in accomplishments, friendship, support, mentorship, constructive criticism -- over the last nine years that are so much more valuable than bread or money.  I feel nothing but gratitude for the opportunities this job provided.

Grudin opines that “The happy individual is able to renew daily and with full consciousness all the basic expressions of human identity: work, love, communication, play, and rest.”

Being Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia and the people who were a part of and supported the work have offered me the opportunity to be one happy individual over the last nine years.  Who could ask for more?

Grudin counsels that “Written history is composed of actions; real history is actions compounded invisibly by refusals to act."

I am equally proud of the written history we created together at the ACLU of Virginia with our actions and the “real history” that includes the wise decisions we made from time to time not to act.  

Finally, Grudin reminds us that “In the heat of action, the mere ability to remember our principles, our goals and the specific reasoning behind the course we have taken is an element of courage. Memory is fear’s first victim.”

It has been hard to preserve “memory” at times over the last nine years. I am grateful to all who helped me to have the courage to fight fear and remember what the ACLU is/who I am, and to reexamine, as appropriate, the reasoning behind the course we have taken and consider carefully the course we should take in the future.

 I will miss working with the amazing staff we assembled at the ACLU of Virginia, our board members, supporters and my professional colleagues in the extended ACLU family.   I highly value the gift these nine years have been to me personally and professionally, and I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the roles that they may have played in our success and in my happiness! For me, standing in the middle, the future remains bright for the ACLU of Virginia and for me personally.