ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

December 17, 2002

2002.12.17: Michael Letwin’s Parting Comments as ALAA President

Michael Letwin’s Parting Comments as ALAA President
December 17, 2002

1.    Today=13 years.  Proud of what we’ve done together in that time.
1.1.        Externally.
1.0.1.        Stood up against the greatest odds: Giuliani.  Not only saved LAS, but defended QR, unparalleled diversity, new Management regime, and unparalleled Union empowerment, begin to restore funds – new attys.
1.0.2.        Also stood up on the great issues of the day.
1.0.2.1.    Louima, Diallo, Dorismond
1.0.2.2.    TWU.
1.0.2.3.    Post-9/11 CL
1.2.    Internally.
1.2.1.    Established collective leadership and membership participation.
1.2.2.    Professional-quality union administration.

2.    What lessons can we draw for the future?
2.1.    We should be flexible and creative in forging unity within diverse membership.  But no matter how nasty it gets, we must never yield our principles to bullies–whether they are Rudolph Giuliani or even some of our own members; because if we compromise our principles to win an election, we don’t deserve to be elected.

2.2.    In other words, we are all morally responsible–for our actions and our silence.
2.2.1.    True about issues of immediate concern within the Union.
2.2.2.    Just as true in regard to major issues of our time.  Martin Luther King, Jr. put it best at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967:

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live. . . .

We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. . . .

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

The U.S. government today remains, in Rev. King’s words, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”  Therefore, we have the same obligation to speak out today.

3.    Finally, it has been an honor to stand with you in these most difficult, but rewarding, years.

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