A Turning Point—My Last Blog Post as President and CEO of MODC

Upon receiving well wishes from many friends and colleagues during my last month, week, then final day as March of  Dimes Canada’s President & CEO, I may not have expressed fully the appreciation I truly felt, for that feeling  was coupled with regret, (for sure I am leaving), confusion (about what really is next), dismay (for the sudden decision despite giving a year’s notice), and surprise (finding myself having arrived at age 70.) I most sincerely thank all staff, volunteers, board and committee members, donors, colleagues, vendors, consultants, consumers and friends who have shared the journey or part of 37+ years with me. It’s been a challenging, joyful, sometimes heartbreaking but always rewarding ride. What I have learned can’t even be summed up. You have shared your knowledge and skills, passions, expectations, failings and achievements, laughter and tears, and we have made a better community, a better Canadian society, and better lives for countless people. I extend warmest best wishes to my replacement, Leonard Baker, now President & CEO.

I am full of gratitude for having had fulfilling work, a welcoming environment, great team mates, and many leader/collaborators. Not for a day did I ever experience doubt about March of Dimes, though many a day I doubted my own capacity to move things forward. Often nervous to speak to a group, worried that I might not have an inspiring message, I found inspiration in the receptivity and acceptance that was sent my way. Thanks for being willing to listen, to giving voice to your own thoughts and needs, and to helping move the agenda along. Thanks to those who offered new challenges, and to those who acted on their own initiative. The future for people with disabilities in Canada is much brighter for the work of the entire MODC team–in service, in advocacy, in fundraising, in administration, in IT, program development and planning, research and marketing/communications.  May your every day be a great one.

But, I cannot end my message here, for with every well wisher who asked, “Are you going on a trip?”, “Have you taken up a new hobby or pastime?”, “Do you have any plans?”, I have responded that I am leaving March of Dimes in order to give more time and commitment to fighting antisemitism. That may seem remote from working for people with disabilities but it is not. People with disabilities have experienced extreme discrimination, prejudice, unfair judgements and unequal access, and all can’t be rectified with just greater attention to buildings or more legislation. Attitudes make a huge difference.

Jew-hatred or antisemitism today isn’t about unfair access, which it was in the past and worryingly could be again in the future. Antisemitism is expressed in attitudes, belligerence, vandalism, displays of intolerance and the repeating of lies, and it is very much a part of the singling out of Israel for discrimination and retribution. A country that is the only Jewish nation state, is constantly accused of being an evil empire when it is the only country in the Middle East and North Africa that has full rights for all of its citizens, that has equality for LGBTQ folks, that has accessibility as a mantra for all developments new and old, that has contributed more to technological and medical advancements for mankind that any other small or large nation,  that is religiously and racially diverse, that sends medical teams to every country experiencing a man-made or climate disaster, and that has rescued and treated its enemies.

The oldest religious hatred is antisemitism, and the worst acts of evil were perpetrated against Jews, almost from time in memoriam. In our free and democratic society, most people cannot imagine anything so outrageous as the Holocaust, but it happened in a civilized, sophisticated  society, so it can happen again. The enemy isn’t one type, it’s many. It is well documented that the political extreme right and the extreme left are both anti-Semitic; and radical Islamists and Neo Nazis have much in common. They desire to eradicate those who don’t agree with them, starting with the Jews, and both operate in a free society. We must learn not to tolerate the intolerable, to quote Eli Weisel, Nobel peace prize winner.

This past Saturday, in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, as Jewish men, women and children prayed, with their sanctuary open to all who wished to enter, a man entered with guns loaded and committed a heinous act of carnage, killing 11 people and wounding more. I can’t stop this from happening here in Canada. I can’t just pray for a light to shine in the hearts of evil men and women who would destroy the Jewish people, our institutions, and would like to destroy our one small Jewish state, but I can perhaps make a small contribution, and I must. So, I am leaving March of Dimes Canada to devote my time to working with organizations that hope to fight and defeat antisemitism, antiZionism, anti-Judaism.

Let these words from journalist Justin Amler be embedded in your thoughts:

Anti-Semitism didn’t explode today – it’s been exploding for so many years. It’s the oldest hatred of all – and also the most unifying, because it is the one thing the extremists on the left and the extremists on the right can agree on. Since World War II ended, it often lived on the fringe of society, but not anymore and hasn’t been for a while. Now it’s mainstream, is festered in political parties around the world, broadcast by those who call themselves leaders of morality and liberal values.

Hatred is uniting and Jews are once again – as they’ve often found themselves throughout history – caught in the middle.

Today, Jews were attacked, not because they were left wing or right wing. Not because they were conservative or liberal. Not because they supported Trump or supported Clinton. They were attacked because they were Jews – it’s really that simple.

 

 

 

About modcpresident
I grew up in Calgary, where I completed a BA at the University of Calgary, then travelled and taught in Kenya and the Canadian Arctic during the heyday of Trudeaumania, hippie travel and social experimentation. I settled in Vancouver to complete a Master of Social Work degree at the University of British Columbia, and stayed another 8 years. After graduating I was a Social Planner and eventually became the Executive Director of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC. Ontario March of Dimes recruited me in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons and the 30th anniversary of the agency. It has grown from a budget of $5m in '81 to $100m in 2010. Services have expanded drafmatically. We incorporated a non profit housing corporation in 1992 and a national charity in 2001, and since 2006 the latter has operated as March of Dimes Canada. We own and operate several properties that provide accommodation and independent living services to 77 people in 4 municipalities and will add another property this year. Two other exciting non profit entities have been incorporated in my 30 years (yes, it has been 30 years!) and we expect to hold our first fundraiser in the US this year and to initiate our first service south of the border also. My role as President and CEO continues to be that of creating a vision, fulfilling the mission and developing strategic plans to meet an increasing demand for services from people with disabilities and their caregivers. This is achieved through direct service, advocacy and peer programs. On a personal note, I live with my 17 year old daughter and two cats, and enjoy their company a lot. My two adult sons are doing interesting exploration in their own lives and I am intrigued with how they are progressing. In my spare time, I have various volunteer roles on several non profit boards and committees, and enjoy creating programs for building awareness of diversity and disability. I think it has become true for me that youth is, while not "wasted on the young," something that I appreciate more with age. Adventures are physically more challenging for me now, so they have to occur in new dimensions.

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