Commentary from Roy Speckhardt, AHA Executive Director

This is the first issue of the newly transformed Humanist magazine. As the cover reveals, the magazine changes this year from a bimonthly, issued six times per year, to a quarterly publication. Moreover, it takes into its pages the contents of Free Mind, the AHA membership newsletter. In terms of editorial policy, the material published in the Humanist will now have less of a journalistic focus and more of a direct espousal of humanist positions—together with reportage on the actions the organization is taking to advance them. Yet a number of familiar columns and features will continue to appear, as well as thought-provoking and illuminating articles.

While the reduction aspect of these changes is a product of the financial stresses placed on the organization by the pandemic, other aspects of the changes are a product of a new direction for the publication that I with the board of directors settled upon in order to best achieve the American Humanist Association’s mission.

Sadly, the necessary belt tightening and shifting of resources toward these new priorities brought about the departure of our long-term Humanist editor, Jennifer Bardi. For fourteen years, Jennifer published critical inquiries and socially conscious analyses that connected humanists and humanism to realities both national and global. Her insightful approach not only applied humanism to the critical issues of our time but enabled readers to challenge aspects of humanist thought that needed updating and to deepen understandings. She was not only the best editor I’ve encountered but she also provided significant leadership over the course of her years of service. Her thoughtful Editor’s Notes, interviews with leaders, and introductions to awardees at conferences were always substantive in ways that helped us grapple with the challenges that continue to face humanists today.

While it’s sad to see an era come to a close as a new one begins, it’s my hope that these changes will help better connect you to what the AHA is doing with your support and will help you explore in new ways the issues we face.

As we embark on the years ahead, uncertainty about our nation’s wellbeing stands in the forefront of our minds. The health and financial security of Americans is at a low point in modern times while unrest regarding the nation’s failure to adequately address critical social justice and human rights issues is at a high point. At the same time, the courts are more biased against church-state separation and progressive humanist values than they have been in a century.

But the American Humanist Association remains in a strong position to advocate for humanism and humanist positions in the public square. We retain a highly professional team of staff and volunteers capable of lobbying, litigating, educating, and engaging in public debate on foundational humanist principles. And our broad base of supporters and activists remains as committed to the AHA as ever. The AHA has the means and the will to build on its past visionary approaches to social change to seek justice for all in our society while playing an important role in improving our world.

Within that context the AHA board of directors developed a strategic plan to best promote the philosophy of humanism, to embrace the full population of American humanists, and to advocate for humanist positions with individuals, communities, governments, and the entire public.

An important part of that plan includes bolstering our advocacy and social justice work while better promoting humanism and our values-based principles in the public square. In order to best accomplish these aims, what you see in the pages of the Humanist will be more reflective of that important work. Together we can make a difference for the future. And we can continue to develop the only philosophy that applies compassion and empathy to a foundation of knowledge determined through science, reason, and imagination.