On October 26, family members and friends of Pam Baldwin gathered for a memorial service at the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Boise. Attendees from a variety of faiths and backgrounds came to pay a final homage to the legacy of this remarkable woman. We had a beautiful service interspersed at times with tears of sadness and tears of laughter.
I would like to reflect on Pam's legacy in this column for the benefit of those who did not know about her work in our community.
I first met Pam shortly after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. She encouraged me to transcend my specific religious identity and to develop more of a global perspective toward all faiths and all people.
She taught me that single groups could not live in isolation and that we had to learn to live together if we were to make this world a better place.
Now I better understand why she often quoted Martin Niemoeller, a German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor who said: "First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist; then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -because I was not a trade unionist; then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -because I was not a Jew; then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out."
When I met her, Pam was associated with United Vision for Idaho and, like this non-profit organization, she fought for the rights of all people without discrimination and without exception. She advocated for policies that would provide all people access to the tools and resources to enhance their own lives within their communities.
In more recent years, she became involved with the Interfaith Alliance of Idaho, another non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the positive and healing role of religion in public life by encouraging civic participation, facilitating community activism, and challenging religious political extremism.
She worked tirelessly and relentlessly to remind us that far more unites us than divides us and that together we must work to dismantle oppression and enhance the equality, dignity and power of all people. She wanted to prove to us that haters were the only minority group living among us.
Pam was a passionate believer in democratic principles. She lived by the following words credited to George Lakoff which she added at the end of many of her emails: "Democracy is based on empathy, on people caring about one another and acting to the very best of their ability on that care, for their families, their communities, their nation, and the world. Government must also care and act on that care. Government's job is to protect and empower its citizens."
One time last spring, while I was sitting at my desk in my office at Boise State University, I received an email alert from Pam that said: "There is a rally for a cause on the steps of the Capitol at 11 a.m. Please call your friends and join us." I had to chuckle at this email because it was already 11:30 in the morning.
For Pam, it was never too late to get involved and get engaged. This is the kind of person she was. She believed in every cause, big and small, and she spent long hours fulfilling her passion for advocacy on behalf of others.
As one of the speakers said it well at the memorial, it may very well have been those long hours in the service of others that finally wore her out.
Pam was a kind and spiritual person. I remember some of her emails ending with the following quote from Martin Luther King Jr. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I do not know if she belonged to an official church but she certainly lived by the commandment of loving your neighbor like yourself.
At Pam's memorial, I ended my eulogy by reading one of my favorite quotes from Kahlil Gibran: "I love you, my brother (and sister), whoever you are - whether you worship in a church, kneel in your temple, or pray in your mosque. You and I are children of one faith, for the diverse paths of religion are fingers of the loving hand of the one Supreme Being, a hand extended to all, offering completeness of spirit to all, eager to receive all."
To her husband and her children, my wife and I want to let you know how much we will miss Pam. We take comfort in the fact that her work has made our world a better place. We also have come to realize that the best way to honor her memory is to continue her work of serving the most vulnerable elements of our society.
Dr. Said Ahmed-Zaid is a Boise State University engineering professor and the 2004 recipient of the annual HP Award for Distinguished Leadership in Human Rights.
The Idaho Statesman's weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.