Outgoing President's Letter

Dear WPSR Members and Friends,

In 1979, when I was on board for the birth of WPSR, I had no idea that 40 years later this organization might still be going strong or that I’d have another chance, all these years later, to help lead WPSR a second time. As I now finish my time as president, Mark Vossler steps up, as planned, to take my place. While chaos seems to be the rule at the White House and the affairs of the world seem quite uncertain right now, I can assure you that WPSR is as solid, effective, and (unfortunately, I guess I would say) clearly needed as ever.

Mark (the longtime co-chair of the Climate Task Force), Bruce Amundson (Past-President, who I stepped in for this past spring), and I have been constantly in touch, and meeting regularly, for the past 9 months — almost like three presidents for the price of one — so that, without any hiccups, we could continue building on the solid ground Bruce laid in his nearly 5 years at the helm and make it possible for Mark to pick things up, without missing a beat, with the start of this new year (Mark will be writing an incoming letter, with more specific thoughts/plans for the future, sometime mid-month).

I will continue on the board as Past-President, and with Bruce as Vice-President, Mary Weiss continuing as board Secretary (in the spirit of bringing up history as part of celebrating our 40th Anniversary, I’ll point out that Mary was a student rep on the WPSR board in the mid-1980s, so a second time around for her, too), Curt Jensen staying as Treasurer, along with the rest of our board that remains in place, I feel very good (and so should you) about the leadership we have in place.

That’s not to even mention our incredible staff or that our three task forces (nuclear weapons, climate change, and economic inequity) continue — with strong chairs and engaged (and growing and increasingly effective) volunteers — to be the dynamos through which most of the work, impact, and influence of WPSR gets done.

Co-chairing one of those task forces, Sarah Cornett, who is now well into her second year on staff as our Climate Program Organizer, has become a real leader not just in WPSR, but in the wider climate community as well. And, while our Security Program Organizer, Lilly Adams, will soon be leaving our staff after two years come the end of January (for a long-planned move to NYC), she has helped create such a solid framework that our newly hired Organizer, Carly Brook, can step into a well-humming machine (with almost a month overlap with Lilly). The Ploughshares Fund reaffirmed their belief in our efforts by renewing their financial support for our anti-nuclear weapons work for the coming year. (Joe Cirincione, Ploughshares Fund President, will be our keynote speaker at our 40th Anniversary Dinner/Fundraiser on March 2).

We also head into the new year with increased visibility and widening influence. In the recent election, WPSR members (quite a few of us!) wrote op-eds, spoke at rallies, and were instrumental in garnering endorsements for I-1631 from almost every major state medical organization in the state, including the Washington State Medical Association. And we are increasingly seen by others in the community as leaders and as knowledgeable, committed, effective and the go-to health voice, especially on the threats of climate change and nuclear weapons. That includes the 40 peace and other groups we’ve brought together in the Washington Against Nuclear Weapons coalition; the members of the alliances formed to stave off new fossil fuel infrastructure (like Protect Tacoma’s Tideflats and the newly-formed Power Past Fracked Gas); and the state’s leading environmental groups, climate groups, communities of color, low-income advocacy organizations, labor leaders, faith groups, and Indian Nations who all came together as the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy (and the I-1631 campaign that grew out of it). While that initiative didn’t pass, the relationships, individual and organizational, and lines of communication forged in that coalition over the past four years (which has now recommitted to continuing working together) may turn out to be the strongest, most important and longest enduring legacy of this effort — with WPSR right in the middle and continuing to play a critical leadership role.

Finally, each of you is a vital part of what makes WPSR work. Your money and donations are critical for supporting our programs and dedicated staff. Also critical is your deep engagement in the issues we work on. Please keep writing letters to the editor; providing written or phoned comments or in-person testimony to thwart attempts to expand fossil fuel infrastructure; calling and emailing your Members of Congress about rational nuclear weapons policy and the obscene amounts spent on these weapons of destruction; pressing medical organizations you’re part of to take advocacy positions at the nexus of climate change, nuclear weapons, economic inequity, and health; encouraging your friends, neighbors, relatives, colleagues, and contacts to join WPSR; getting yourself added to our alert emails for climatenuclearand other issues — and consider joining a task force or otherwise stepping up in some way.

In these troubled times, with a president in D.C. who is uniformed, immoral, racist, dangerous, etc., etc., etc., it’s actually healthy to get involved, to do something, to take some action, to become part of solutions. Doctor’s orders: make WPSR and advocacy efforts part of your mental health regimen.

And join us at our WPSR 40th Anniversary Celebration/Annual Dinner/Fundraiser on March 2.

Wishing you and your families peace and health for the coming year.


Kenneth N. Lans, MD, MBA