Opening Words from Sun. May 10 by Bob Pickard

Today is Mother’s Day and, as such, it might seem fitting to reserve opening words for a mother, which obviously I am not.  No, I am up here for a very different reason.  My name is Bob Pickard, and I am the chair of the Second Leader Search Committee.  And it is my pleasure, supported with the unanimous consent of the Search Committee and the Board of Trustees, to recommend James Croft for the position of second Leader of our Society.

Now before talking about how and why we chose James, I’d like to talk a bit about process and history.  More than two years ago, the Board began to envision a two-Leader model for the Ethical Society.  After surveying the membership and much theoretical discussion, they launched a human capital campaign to determine the level of financial support for a second Leader.  The success of that campaign encouraged the Board to form a search committee.  That committee, chaired by me, included Carole Beere, Tom Draney, Alan Easton, Casey Foat, and Brian Vandenberg, as well as Kate Lovelady as a non-voting member with veto power.

The Board provided the committee guidelines from which we developed a detailed job description.  Primary among the duties of this second Leader—outreach.  And what is meant by outreach?

The Board’s vision is to increase the Society’s exposure and influence in the wider St. Louis community through our words, voices and deeds and, in the process reach more people who will benefit from becoming members of our community.

The committee undertook the process to find the most highly qualified candidate anywhere.  We began by advertising to every Humanist organization we could find, including of course the AEU and The Humanist Institute, as well as to other secular and some liberal Christian and Jewish associations and institutions.  Advertising was done exclusively on-line, as we were looking for someone well-versed in social and other digital media.  Candidates were asked to submit their applications, resumes, references and samples of their writings.

Now at nearly the same time that plans were revving up to find a second Leader, James Croft was settling into his new home in St. Louis, getting ready to begin his tenure as a Leader-in-Training, his final requirement before becoming an AEU-certified Ethical Culture Leader.  Owing to the concurrence of these two activities, a number of members mistakenly assumed that James was the automatic choice for the job of Second Leader.

But our charge was to cast a wide net, conducting an extensive search to find the very best candidate out there.  James was welcome to apply, and indeed he did, entering the applicant pool with no special standing or consideration.  He received the same scrutiny and was treated in the same manner as our other applicants.  We thoroughly vetted James in the same way we did candidates less well known to us.

In the end, James quite clearly rose above the others.  We found him to be an exuberant, well-spoken, talented young man.  Comfortable, even passionate about sharing a humanist message, on stage, radio and social media, he is well-qualified to serve as outreach Leader.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Let me share some comments from a number of the many people we contacted, seeking references.

“He has more passion and energy than anyone I have ever known.  Great at outreach and recruiting.”

“Extraordinary communicator”

“Dynamic leadership”

“The job description is so perfect for him.”

“James is unique within the movement.”

“Incredibly effective at moving people to action”

“No one in the United States is better for the job.”

Speaking of that, some of you have asked about James’s visa status.  So I will tell you that he is currently in the process of obtaining a visa through the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.  He was hoping to gain his visa by being classified as “an alien of extraordinary ability”, which, as a Sci-Fi aficionado, sounded really cool to him.  It turns out that there are other visa classifications which might be more appropriate for his circumstances.

Now admittedly, James is young and inexperienced as a Leader of a congregation, and he recognizes that there is much to learn.  Fortunately, he has a great mentor in Kate Lovelady.  She, in turn, has told us how eagerly she would welcome James as a colleague and co-worker.

The next step is yours.  Today, you will listen to James’s official candidate address.  Typically, we would have a Town Hall meeting, with discussion and vote, following the address.  But due to a policy in the by-laws regarding the timing of notice of special meetings, we have postponed the discussion and vote until Thursday’s Annual Meeting.  It is very important that you make every effort to attend that meeting.  Of course, if you absolutely cannot attend, you will be able to vote via absentee ballot.

One final note before turning the Platform over to James…

We, in St. Louis, home of the largest Ethical Society in the movement, have an extraordinary opportunity to put Ethical Culture on the map.  This could be our moment.  I honestly believe that James and Kate are the dynamic duo with the stuff to make that happen.  But they can’t do it without the support, commitment, and energy of our members.  Each of us has an important part to play.

Thank you for listening.  Coming up shortly, whether the US Immigration Service classifies him as such or not—-James Croft, an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability”.