by Aimee Murphy
As we say goodbye to 2020 and welcome the New Year, I must announce that I am saying a “goodbye” of sorts myself. I’m proud to say that just about ten years ago I founded Life Matters Journal. I was 22 years old, a fresh-faced college graduate, looking for a way to stay active in the work for human dignity. My passion has stemmed from my own experience: when I was 16 and an ex threatened to kill me if I didn’t have an abortion, I became vehemently pro-nonviolence. Pro-peace. Pro-life — albeit begrudgingly. I became forever unsettled in that moment, because I suddenly understood how terribly dehumanizing violence is, particularly the violence of abortion. My goal ever since has been to unsettle everyone else. I knew then that no one should be “comfortable” in a world so steeped in violence.
So when I was 22, I knew that I couldn’t be done doing work for human dignity even though I’d graduated from college. In undergrad, at least I could attend the weekly Life Matters Club meetings, where we’d talk about a Consistent Life Ethic issue or do a volunteer project or activism related to the CLE. In August of 2011, I started this fledgling organization as a mere Facebook group. With Nicholas Neal, I began plans for the very first issue of Life Matters Journal. We solicited pieces, asked for editing help, and got the very first totally-online issue published just months later. Our first-ever board of directors was comprised of young adults, many of whom were college students who had yet to finish their undergraduate degree. We were small and scrappy. Our mission? To bring the Consistent Life Ethic to a new generation. To spread this non-partisan, secular but faith-inclusive, accessible philosophy of shared inherent human dignity to every corner of the world.
As time went on, we incorporated. We became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Then, we developed a brilliant program for internships, where we created project plans around our applicants’ academic programs and personal interests. We’ve published books, white papers, outreach programs, and sidewalk advocacy tools all because of this unique and individualized program. But we also have gained invaluable relationships with young, innovative leaders who have continued to bring refreshing new ideas to the table. Among those young leaders were two of our current team members: Maria Oswalt and Herb Geraghty.
We hired art student Maria about six years ago, and Herb a little less than five years ago, as a college student in political science and communications. Both have been tremendous assets to our work over the years; I am without a doubt that you have been impacted by their tireless work in one way or another. If you’ve liked one of our social media graphics, watched a video, tuned into our conference, or read our magazine, you have witnessed their creativity, ingenuity, and passion. And it is honestly because of their ongoing dedication and commitment to this work that I feel comfortable sharing today’s news with you.
Looking back, 2016 was the beginning of a profound expansion of our mission: whereas before we had largely been a publication with minor educational add-ons, in 2016 we did extensive outreach outside of political conventions, we held two conferences, and we developed a stronger sense of community. Maria had been an intern the summer prior. Her skill in design was unprecedented, and her devotion to human dignity was unrivaled. Herb was hired in summer 2016. Herb’s passion and energy were immediately clear to anyone who could witness him talking about the Consistent Life Ethic. He was able to communicate it so well, and has changed so many hearts and minds in the process. And then, in 2017, over the phone on a car drive back from Ypsilanti, Michigan, Herb and I brainstormed the new name, “Rehumanize International," to indicate a shift in focus and capacity. In the years since, we have grown and changed to become the phenomenal human rights organization you know today: dedicated… comprehensive… inclusive.
I truly am so proud of what we have accomplished, and what we have become. When we hired Sarah Slater as Manager of Compliance and Development this past Summer, Rehumanize International of 2020 had honestly fulfilled my wildest expectations for the little Facebook group I started back in 2011. We have been able to share the Consistent Life Ethic with thousands upon thousands of people, more than I could have ever imagined. The seed that was started as a passion project in my spare time (while I worked as a front office assistant at an urgent care center!) has blossomed into this beautiful organization that speaks truth to power, that stands with the oppressed, and that seeks to build a world where every human being is respected, valued, and protected.
It is with this abiding feeling of accomplishment and peace that I announce that I am stepping down as Executive Director of Rehumanize International, effective at the end of December 31, 2020. I believe that I have led this journey as far as I am able, and that I must turn this mission over to the next generation who can bring it into the future. I will be honest, if only because I am doing my best to learn from disability advocates and leaders who have come before me: I am disabled. Having been raised in an ableist and utilitarian society, it’s taken time to realize that my worth is in no way impacted by my fairly new diagnoses, and that I am merely making accommodations to my life so that I can thrive instead of struggle constantly. Though I remain as dedicated to the vision of Rehumanize International as ever, my chronic pain condition has regrettably become too much for me to handle well while still being responsible for the day-to-day business of running a small nonprofit. And that’s okay! It is for the sake of this amazing little non-profit that I hand over the reins to a young leader who has demonstrated that he has what it takes to bring our work into generations beyond our own.
I am truly filled with joy to announce that Herb Geraghty will be the next Executive Director for Rehumanize International. Our Board of Directors accepted his application, interviewed him with a pointed barrage of questions, and has since elected to promote him to Executive Director as of January 1, 2021. I have full confidence that Herb has the vision and the persistence to achieve our goals: “to create a culture of peace and life ... to bring an end to all forms of aggressive violence against human beings.” Since he began as a college intern, Herb has been unafraid to challenge me with candor, to broach hard subjects with interlocutors with poise, and to stand firm in his convictions despite at-times dehumanizing opposition. I am convinced that he has the skill, the attitude, and the creativity to be the leader that this organization needs for the coming years.
More than that, though, in Herb I have gained a constant companion, a reliable road warrior, and a fearless friend. By this I mean to say that, I am happy and proud to be able to follow Herb into whatever work comes next. Though I step down as Executive Director, I will stay on the team — part-time, for the foreseeable future — to help in the transitional period. In addition to helping Herb adapt to the new role, I’ll be writing a bit more, and researching a bit more, focusing on things that I can do well for Rehumanize International given my limited energy. I’m thrilled for this next stage — to allow the organization to grow and thrive far beyond what I could even imagine or hope for. I hope that you’ll stand with us, now more than ever, as we take these exciting steps towards a future where every human being is respected, valued, and protected.
I’m so grateful that I have been able to fulfill this role for as long as I have; it really has been such a gift to be able to live my passion day-in and day-out. Thank you for believing in me, in us, and in our mission.
With love and affection,
For peace and every human’s life,
Founder, Rehumanize International