Notes from the AHA Conference: Cultivating a Nationwide Community

By Ellie Haylund

Earlier this month, I and several other HumanistsMN members descended on Denver for the American Humanist Association’s annual conference. This year’s theme was “Crossroads and Collective Futures.” I’d never attended the conference before and was eager to connect with other humanists from across the country.

The program sessions were wide-ranging. Topics included “The Human in Humanism: Finding a Home for Social Justice & Other Values that Help Instead of Harm,” “Dehumanization of the Black Male Form,” “What Do You Mean Science is Racist?,” and “Multifaith Engagement.” 

Dr. David Breeden, senior minister at First Unitarian Society, receiving an AHA award

I spoke on a panel about growing and sustaining a humanist presence in one’s community. There are so many ways to be a humanist and building a like-minded community strengthens our ability to have a positive impact in alignment with our values. It was valuable to hear about what other secular organizations are doing – from public policy to volunteering, social engagements to student scholarships. On behalf of HMN, I reported on last year’s successful member drive, our wildly popular billboard campaign, and our work with Minnesota legislators to create the Secular Government Caucus.

Minnesotans had a strong presence at the conference. In addition to HMN representatives, members of First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis and Rochester Area Freethinkers were present. Our friend Dr. David Breeden, senior minister at FUS, even received the 2023 Distinguished Service Award. As a chapter centralized in the Twin Cities, we have the benefit of a largely progressive environment. Not all humanists do. Speaking with attendees from states like Florida demonstrated how important it is to connect with those seeing the erosion of rights and threats to the First Amendment in their home states.

The more we can cultivate a nationwide community, the more we can promote and practice what is most important to us: ethical living, widespread human flourishing, and a healthy planet, with an emphasis on science, reason, and compassion.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference. Humanism is gaining visibility and resonating with more people every day. I’d love to see even more HMN members attend next year so we can learn together, foster relationships, and “think big” about what we can achieve.

Ellie Haylund is president of HumanistsMN.



    • Christine R on May 23, 2023 at 9:17 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for this report, Ellie- and for being willing and able to be a prominent face of humanism and HMN to a broad public! You’re doing a great job!

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