After a gentle roasting from Betsy Bennett and kind words from Chris Schimmoeller and Hank Graddy, and delightful notes from Joe Childers, Wendell Berry and Judy Petersen, Fitz made these uncharacteristically brief remarks:
Since its inception in 1992, Kentucky Heartwood has given meaning to Margaret Mead’s observation “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever does!”
Stu Butler and the other founding members of Kentucky Heartwood recognized the need for a voice for the public on national forestland issues, and Kentucky Heartwood has been that unapologetic voice demanding accountability in forest policy and management.
Stu Butler bore witness by his life to the need for our policies to be driven by values more enduring and more robust than the quarterly bottom line. He never drew attention to himself, never sought to impose a solution, never took anywhere near what he gave. On hearing of his death, as I reflected on Stu’s work, I was reminded of a prayer by Marian Wright Edelman:
Lord, help me not to be a taker, but a tender,
Help me not to be a whiner but a worker,
Help me not to be a getter but a giver,
Help me not to be a hindrance but a help,
Help me not to be a critic but a catalyst for good.
Stu was a catalyst for good, a tender, a worker, a giver and a help.
How do we go about building a more sustaining, more just natural, political and economic environment?
As Mother Theresa told the interviewer who wondered how she persevered in the face of overwhelming need – “one soul at a time,” beginning with our own. Never despair that your efforts are too small, too little to make a difference. Together, Kentucky Heartwood has made a difference, and continues to do so.
What is Stu’s challenge to us?
To be creatively intolerant. Just as accommodating injustice never made an unjust person more just, tolerating mediocrity in environmental protection never made a polluter or an indifferent politician more responsible.
To mentor, and learn from mentors. Margaret Mead was right again when she said that “our humanity rests upon a series of learned behaviors, woven together into patterns that are infinitely fragile and never directly inherited.” Think about what we pattern, and learn from the example of those who came before, just as you pattern for those who follow. Lean from the past in order to make sense of the present and to inform the future.
To remember that we are in it for the long haul, and that change occurs incrementally, sometimes subtly, but it does occur. Stu knew that the day belongs to those who show up, and who keep showing up and bearing witness.
In the 1950’s Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime,
therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing that is true and beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history
therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;
therefore we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint;
therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.
In Stu’s honor and memory, let us aspire to be less acquisitive, less aggressive in our relationships with each other and our environment. Let us face our tomorrows with hope and humility and continue together in struggle and in fellowship to improve the environmental legacy that we will leave to our children’s children.
Thank you for this kind recognition of my work.