Commentary from Nicole Carr, AHA Deputy Director

In this issue of Humanist magazine, we celebrate the American Humanist Association’s 2021 Humanist of the Year, Dr. Anthony Fauci. As AHA Board member Jennifer Kalmanson said in her presentation of the award to Dr. Fauci, we chose to honor him “for his enduring legacy as a scientist, as a healer, and as a humanist.” Since 1984, Dr. Fauci has served as the Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at the National Institutes of Health. He has been chief medical advisor to every President since the Reagan Administration.

Dr. Fauci has shown unique leadership throughout the current pandemic, demonstrating the ability to change the advice he gives to match the best available knowledge. This is the essence of a scientific mindset and a humanist one and we are proud that he is our 2021 Humanist of the Year.

We presented the award to Dr. Fauci in July at our 80th Annual Conference—once again held virtually because of COVID-19. In addition to Dr. Fauci’s acceptance speech, included in this issue are versions of two sessions that also drew large audiences at the Conference, because of their importance to humanist audiences: Advancing Humanism in a Red State and Organizing Young Humanists. The first of these articles highlights four impressive humanists under the age of forty, in an important conversation about how the humanist movement can bring more people in their demographic into the community—and encourage them to stay. The second article features insights from State Senator Megan Hunt of Nebraska, a rising star among humanist elected officials, who shares how she works to accomplish progressive aims in a deeply conservative state.

Last June, as I wrote my column for the Summer Issue of this magazine, the pandemic situation seemed upbeat, with more and more people getting vaccinated and COVID numbers declining. We even featured a cartoon of a bright sun, throwing away its mask. Unfortunately, as I write this current column in mid-September, cases have again increased, vaccine-hesitancy remains depressingly high, and it sometimes seems that there is no end in sight. Questions about boosters and vaccine mandates abound. Featuring Dr. Fauci seems more important than ever as we continue to need his steady, evidence-based guidance to see us through.

Although the pandemic continues to be a point of concern for most of us, we want to take a moment for gratitude. We’re thankful to all of you who could attend our annual conference this year, and for the opportunity to bring so many humanists together—even if the gathering had to be virtual. And for those of you that could not attend, we hope to see you next time.

Let’s hope that we can soon reach a point at which the sign-off for this column is something other than “Get vaccinated and wear a mask.” And stay healthy!