President’s Column: Change Doesn’t Mean Goodbye
By Jeannette Watland
On October 22nd, Bjorn Watland, President of Minnesota Atheists resigned from the board, due to personal reasons. As Associate President, my initial reaction was to worry about myself. I now have to take on new responsibilities, and anxiety admittedly took a temporary hold on me. Then the emails started coming in, and I realized I had made a mistake. I shouldn’t be worrying about myself at all. My primary concern is now, and always will be, the membership.
This leadership transition took the board of directors by surprise, and I can only imagine how the membership will take the news. My first job as President of Minnesota Atheists is to ensure all of our members that we will proceed with is business as usual. I will not allow our organization to fall apart.
Since Bjorn has been so publicly active, I’m sure many of our members are not familiar with me. It would only be natural to doubt my leadership capabilities. Why not? Up until this point, I’ve worked behind the scenes. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. I’m a 24 year old atheist living in St. Paul. I’ve been serving on the board of directors for Minnesota Atheists for two years, first as a director-at-large, then as Associate President. I have also been serving on the board for Camp Quest of Minnesota for approximately the same amount of time. I am open about my atheism to friends, family and coworkers. Because I’m so open, I have often felt ostracism, distrust, and even hatred from the public. Minnesota Atheists is an organization where I can be myself. I know others feel that way, whether they are “out” or not.
Knowing that this organization is the only safe haven for many people is what drives my dedication to helping this organization grow. With membership demographics changing, there are many young parents with children joining. I want to work on making Minnesota Atheists more family friendly. Most importantly I want to continue working on building respect and understanding of the Freethought community. We can’t make people agree with us, but we can at least gain respect.
There is no doubt in my mind that this organization will continue to move as smoothly as ever. Bjorn will continue to help as organizer of the Meet-up, a vital component of Minnesota Atheists. He is not going away. The board of directors has been extremely supportive and hard-working in the transitions we’ve made this year. Each person serving on the board has dedicated time and energy to something they care deeply about, and deserve many thanks. But so do the members and supporters of this organization. Not only do you support atheist rights, but you make this a second home for so many people. I have found so many amazing, caring friends in this organization, something I am very thankful for. I love that our events are a place people feel welcome. It is a place where they see eye to eye with people, and can speak their mind, without fear of persecution. So I urge you all to keep coming to events, and to keep this community alive, and I thank you for your support and encouragement.
Trust that it does not go unnoticed.