Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1642 - Transitions are powerful, and I am in transition

  Transitions are powerful. Transitions may be powerfully good or powerfully bad. Transitions are rarely neutral. Transitions are nearly always powerful.

  I am in transition. After 35 years in the Alabama Senate, I have transitioned out of that body and that world. The Senate did not dominate my life, but it did frame it. The Senate did not determine who I needed to be, but it did reflect who I needed to be. The Senate did not make me the man I am, but it did enlarge my reach.

  When I entered the Senate 35 years ago, I had already established my personal identity. I was 41 years of age and had met powerful challenges forged by oppressive racial conditions and stifling poverty. I already had a professional identity, having been a practicing attorney and managing partner of our law firm from its inception in 1971. I already had a community identity, having helped found and nourish a number of community organizations, institutions, and initiatives. All of these things impacted how I served in the Alabama Senate and how I impacted the Alabama Senate as I served.

  I never stopped doing any of the major things I was doing before I entered the Senate. Therefore, the Senate was always an important supplement but not a substitute. I am still doing those things, so the supplement just drops off. There is no need to substitute anything. There is no need to fill any time space. There is no void to fill. My life was more than full before I entered the Senate. It is still more than full as I leave the Senate. Transitions are powerful, and I am in transition.

  “What,” you may ask, “will be different?” There will certainly be differences in terms of time expended. There will certainly be differences in responsibilities. There will certainly be differences in status. There will certainly be differences in governmental limitations. And there will be other differences, known and unknown. I will address these differences in more detail as I continue this writing.

  The time expended will be less. I average 14 to 16-hour work days. Some of it is strictly legal/law firm business. Some of it is strictly community-related. Some of it is strictly Senate business. Some of it is strictly political. Some of it just overlaps in every which a way. When people ask me what will I do with all the time I will have after “my retirement,” I remind them that I am not retiring. I explain that I just didn’t run for the Senate again. The Alabama Senate was never considered full time even though I put in overtime. It certainly did not carry full-time pay, and therefore I had to earn a living. I tell them that my time requirements will just go from 14 to16-hour days, seven days a week to 10 to 12-hour days six days a week. They invariably say that is not much of a reduction. I point out that it is more than a 25 percent reduction. Transitions are powerful, and I am in transition.

  My responsibilities are less. I no longer have to go to Montgomery for Senate sessions. I no longer have to attend as many meetings. I no longer have to travel quite as much. I no longer have to be available to every person. Of course, I will still be broadly available because that is my approach to leadership. And I will continue to lead in my own way.

  My status will change. I was never hung up about the status or title of being a senator. However, it is a fact that I will no longer have that title or status. That will matter to some because titles and status matter much to them. But I have never asked or suggested that anyone call me “Senator.” In fact, I have never even use the phrase, “I am Senator Hank Sanders” – not even once in 35 years. I say in radio ads and robo-calls “I am Hank Sanders, Alabama State Senator.” Sometimes I say, “I am Hank Sanders, member of the Alabama State Senate.” I don’t much care what title people place before my name. I believe the old saying, “I am not what you call me, but I am what I answer to.” In fact, I had titles that carried status before I entered the Alabama Senate: attorney, lawyer, counselor, etc.  Some even incorrectly called me “Reverend.” Of course, I realize that status is a form of power, and therefore, I will have less status power to do good. But the status of a position does not diminish completely or immediately after the position of status is vacated. Some will call me “Senator” for years to come in spite of my discouraging them from doing so. Besides, an important part of my status had to do with my values, performance, and commitments. None of these have changed.

  While serving in the Alabama Senate, I was limited in a number of ways:  I could not raise money for non-profit, tax-exempt entities from any entity that may remotely come before the Alabama Legislature; I had to be very careful so that my law practice and/or other activities did not unethically influence my Senate service; I could not accept pay for speeches; etc. These limitations will no longer apply. Therefore, as I lose some opportunities to positively impact our communities, I will be able to pursue others.

  Then there are the unknowns and the unanticipated things that always occur. I don’t know what they will be, but I know they will come. They always come. In whatever form they come, I will do the best I can to meet the challenges and rise to the occasions. Transitions are powerful, and I am in transition.

EPILOGUE – Transitions in life are inevitable. Sometimes it is others’ transitions to which we have to adjust. Other times it is our transition to which others have to adjust. Still, other times we are adjusting to our own transitions. This is such a time for me. Of course, I understand that as I transition, I create transitions for others. I just hope that we all embrace the transitions rather than allowing them to embrace us. I intend to fully embrace this moment of transition. 

  About the author: Hank Sanders represented District 23 in the Alabama Senate from 1983 to 2018.

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