Below is Frances Deverell’s acceptance speech upon receiving the Knight Award.
Well, you’ve done the impossible. I’m speechless.
Thank you for this great honour, this very special recognition.
First let me say that nobody does this work alone. I have been most fortunate to have many brilliant people and caring activists working tirelessly at my side for all these years. I particularly want to mention the current board and recent past board members of the Canadian Unitarians For Social Justice: Margaret Rao, Bill Woolverton, Lynn Armstrong, Gary Campbell, Sally Palmer Woods, Joy Silver, Leslie Kemp, Andy Blair, Jim Sannes and Ellen Pappenburg, Cym Gomery, Bob Staveley, Philip Symons, and recently deceased and much loved Bob Stevenson from Ottawa. Many of them have been on the board for years and hold a vision for Unitarians having an active witness to our principles and values in the wider community. I am lucky to work with this dynamic, supportive team. If you are a social activist and would like to work with us, we are currently recruiting for the next board. The climate, and passing a thriving planet to our children, are calling us.
My thanks also to the activist coalitions who share our commitments and our values. We often work to amplify and support their campaigns. CUSJ belongs to the Climate Action network, A Democracy network, Human Rights networks, and Peace networks. Canada has an incredible network of committed activists trying to build the public awareness and the will to transition to a new, greener, more equal society.
And I have many heroes amongst you, my fellow Unitarians, who each in their own way are doing so much to make the world a better place. My colleagues in ministry, people like Irvin Waller who helped us get the best possible criminal justice policy and action strategy, and inspiring leaders in the CUC, the UUA, at the UN, and around the world.
Often, I felt doubt and discouragement. It is easy to wonder if there is any point in bothering. I didn’t always feel the support around me. I doubted myself. My own worth. I didn’t know if I was making a difference. But when I go there I look back out into the world and discover that injustice still exists and feels to me unconscionable. I look for new strategies to try. The time is now. Someone has to speak out. When I asked Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians how she kept going when it felt so discouraging she told me – “the work is too important to allow yourself to be discouraged. Hope is a Moral Imperative.”
Martin Luther King Junior, at the end of the Montgomery Boycott, said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Thank you again. I receive this special recognition from the Knight family and my fellow knights with humility and gratitude.