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New ACLU President On Elections

Susan N. Herman,
Former President
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October 28, 2008

I had a busy weekend being elected President of the American Civil Liberties Union.

My first thought after the election was that the ACLU could certainly teach the country a lot about how to run a presidential election. All efforts were made to allow every one of the eligible voters (the 83-person National Board of Directors) to participate in the process and vote. There was no negative campaigning; the debates were only about the issues; and every vote was counted.

My second thought was about the awesome responsibility of leading the ACLU through the challenging times to come. Since the beginning of Anthony Romero’s tenure in 2001, we have experienced exponential growth of our membership, our national and affiliate staffs, and our budget. Both the turbulent economy and the Obama/McCain election will require us to have new conversations about how we can best advance our mission: to protect and restore our civil rights and civil liberties.

We are approaching the centennial of the ACLU in 2020. My chief goal as President will be to make sure that the ACLU is a permanent fixture in the country’s landscape going into our second century.

I have received many congratulatory calls and emails from people I have known in all aspects of my life. My young friend Lucas Hartstone-Rose, who has been living in Ghana, talked about the importance of the ACLU not just in protecting our own rights, but in setting an example for the rest of the world. “Not only has the unlawful imprisonment of detainees, in Guantánamo Bay, without due process, and subject to what is clearly cruel and unusual punishment, hurt us at home, but it’s really undermined our ability to persuade other governments to respect people’s rights.”

I hope to help lead the ACLU to do the work we have always done in promoting liberty, equality, fairness, and tolerance. And I hope to reach out to new communities in this country which have not always understood that our work is also on their behalf, to new generations of civil libertarians, and to the global community of which we are part, whether we intend to be or not.

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