Traveling Hopefully- By Scott Crichton, outgoing Executive Director, ACLU of Montana
For the record, the Farewell Tour wasn’t my idea. The idea for the six-city circuit came from my board. It turns out it was the right thing for the affiliate to do. It was an exciting, exhausting and overwhelming experience that allowed me to personally express my gratitude to several hundred supporters who over the years have given of their time, talents and treasure to make the Montana ACLU a viable and dynamic player on the Montana political landscape. Thanks to everyone who participated in making the celebrations happen and to all who attended. There are still plenty of folks I didn’t get to see as part of this send-off, but I am grateful to them for their activism, involvement, commitment and backing over the years.
I thank Judy Hart for her leadership during this transition and the generous accolade in her President’s column acknowledging some of our successes along the way. It reminds me that many people, not just on our board and staff, not just those within our membership, pulled together to work for mutual interests with common dreams.
Beyond the impact of litigation and vigilant lobbying, we put a lot of time and energy into trying to expand people’s understandings of and appreciation for the ACLU’s work. To commemorate the Bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, with help from the Montana Committee for the Humanities, we conducted civic discussions we called “Jefferson Meetings” in Miles City, Lewistown, Helena and Great Falls. For years, in collaboration with KEMC public radio, we did 90 minute call-in shows to generate public discussion about key elements of the Bill of Rights. We also produced for broadcast an award winning series of 50 one-minute summaries of landmark Supreme Court decisions “Your Bill of Rights” that are still current and available on our web site.
One regret is our not managing to abolish the death penalty in Montana during my tenure. Our work with the Montana Abolition Coalition is particularly satisfying, and I will go to my grave knowing we put together some of the most profound legislative hearings ever presented in the hallowed halls of our Capitol. It was heartbreaking to see repeal die in the House this session on a 50-50 vote. But I am proud that our work pioneering Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty played a significant role last month in Nebraska’s legislature, garnering enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto and making them the most recent state to join the ranks of the civilized world. I am confident Montana is not far behind.
Beyond Montana, I would be remiss not to acknowledge Anthony Romero and the National ACLU. Anthony came on staff only days before 9/11/01. He and his staff, with real help from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, doubled ACLU’s membership to more than 500,000 nationwide. Shining light on the “Dark Side”, exposing U.S. torture and the devastating invasions of privacy conducted as part of the War on Terror, and creating the John Adams Project to provide counsel to Guantanamo detainees are to me some of ACLU’s finest moments. Last but not least, designating the Montana affiliate as part of the Strategic Affiliate Initiative was a huge reward for our efforts over the early leaner years. SAI allowed me to hire dedicated staff to handle our public policy, development, litigation, communication and field work.
I have learned so much and grown immeasurably, personally and professionally, thanks to the ACLU. It has been an honor and privilege to have been entrusted with this position. As I pass the torch into the capable hands of Caitlin Borgmann, I commit to including ACLU in my estate plan to ensure there is always a force ready to stand up against the inevitable abuse of power. I would encourage everyone who loves freedom and believes in human dignity to do the same. Thank you all.