OCTOBER 18, 2017

I am humbled to be among the outstanding Women of Achievement who are receiving this honor tonight and have received it in the past.  I would like to thank Alice Bennett for nominating me for this award and the others who wrote supporting nominations for me including Bob Pinger who is here this evening.

Also, I would like to thank my family members who are here this evening:  My son, Jeffrey Wooden, my daughter-in-law, Holly Wooden, my grandson, Michael Wooden, and Michael’s special friend, Hannah Wikert.  Michael and Hannah are both 2017 graduates of Ball State. Thanks also to Martina Fern who came all the way from CFI headquarters in Buffalo, NY to be here this evening.

We Secular Humanists practice the Common Moral Decencies such as honesty, integrity, don’t hurt people, don’t harm other people’s property, be responsible, be benevolent-- trustworthiness, dependability, justice and equality in society, and respect for the beliefs, values, and life styles of others.

These are the same values that were instilled in me by my family as I grew up on a farm in Daviess County Indiana. We attended church every Sunday as a family.  Church was where we got together with our neighbors once a week and where we organized and supported each other--especially when our neighbors fell on hard times. I got to meet young people from outside my local community and learned leadership skills by participating in 4-H. I am proud that my son is now president of the Indiana 4-H Foundation.

Education had a special emphasis in my family.  We lived with my grandmother.  I heard her recount many times how she was denied the opportunity to attend high school while her brother was allowed to go.  Her husband died young leaving her with two little girls ages seven and four.  The four-year-old was my mother.  My grandmother raised her girls as a single mom, supported them from her small farm, and sent them both to college.  They both became teachers. 

My father was the second child in a family of ten.  Eight survived to adulthood. Of that eight, all but two got a college education. Three of them became teachers.

My father was the one who stayed home to help on the farm.  He and my mother were determined that all four of their children would have the opportunity to get a college education. My sister and I both became teachers, one brother majored in business, and the other chose to stay on the farm.

I am proud to have worked in public education for 37 years and that my children and grandchildren have attended and are attending public schools.  Public education is under attack and needs defending.

When I discovered Center for Inquiry, I found that this organization represented my values, and when I became Executive Director of their Indiana branch, it gave me a platform from which to be an activist on those values.  

We support the first amendment on both freedom of religion and separation of church and state.  Everyone has the right to believe and practice their chosen religion including the right to choose to practice no religion.  The Seventh Circuit decision in the case for Secular Celebrants, in which I was the lead plaintiff, is the strongest court precedent to this date affirming the rights of the nonreligious. Conversely, public policy should be based on secular principles and not on any specific religion or political belief.

I was among the generation of women when the birth control pill was first easily available.  I was one of those women who personally benefitted from being able to choose if, when, and how many children I would have.  The availability of contraception is a key to women’s rights and professional opportunities for women.  

When I was growing up, LGBT issues were not even discussed.  However, as I became acquainted with people in the LGBT community, I began to network there also.  Everyone, no matter their sexual orientation, should have rights equal to other people.  

Because of attending a small rural school which did not offer many science courses, I do not have a good science background.  However, I have a great respect for  scientific way of thinking and support the life stance that advocates that personal and government decisions be based on evidence.

And so, to all of you, and especially to the students in the audience who are preparing for their adult life and careers, practice the Common Moral Decencies and base your personal decisions and advocacy in the wider society on evidence based information.

I would like to close with a quote from Richard Dawkins’ new book, Science in the Soul, “What matters is not the facts but how you discover and think about them: education in the true sense, very different from today’s assessment-mad exam culture.” 

Thank you all for being here this evening and to the committee who selected me for this award.

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