For almost 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with you as Executive Director of the Babcock Foundation to build more just and caring communities in our home region. The Foundation is now in the good hands of the board, staff and David Jackson as the new Executive Director.
I depart with a vision for our region shaped by our work together:
The Southeastern United States is a place of wide-spread opportunity for all of its people and places. Equity is standard: The current racial gaps in income, wealth, education, and access to opportunity no longer exist. Places with long-struggling economies, such as Central Appalachia, the Black Belt and the Delta, are thriving with sustainable economic activity that benefits all of their people and the natural environment. The cultures and histories of places and peoples are treasured assets, with lessons learned and hearts healed from our past. The rest of the country and the world look to the American South as an exciting, promising place of equity and opportunity.
Will we achieve this vision? I believe so. Not soon, not in every community and every heart, not perfectly; but to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., “The arc of history is long, and it bends toward justice.” Visions of justice change with the times, so our visions will give way to new ones. A constant is people like you doing the hard work of building just and caring communities.
I depart the Foundation with deep respect and abiding gratitude for my colleagues inside and outside the Foundation. You are among the smartest, most courageous, and fully human people I know. On our best days, which are many, we live and work with a clear-eyed, open-hearted, truth-telling hope that we can make progress. On bad days, we are tempted to give up to anger and defeat. Some days, we do the best we can with what we are dealt, drawing on each other and our vision, love, history, faith, or whatever sustains us. We are in this work for the long haul.
Many of you have asked what I will do next. In April, I will begin a part-time coaching and consulting practice. Until then, I am taking time to rest and embrace new possibilities—including some spring gardening. Please stay in touch. My contact information is below.