Retired Executive Director
ACLU of Maryland
Susan Goering took advantage of her free time after retiring in February following a 32-year career with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland to assess the state of American democracy.
“I worked hard on the 2018 midterm election in Maryland and other states because I take seriously the right of all residents to vote and select their political leaders,” Goering said. “I believe that our democracy is fragile, especially in these times when there is so much polarization. Our democracy needs to breathe and that requires that we all take the time to deeply listen to others who are different than ourselves.”
Goering said two long-running cases focused on institutional racism were among her most significant accomplishments. In a housing segregation case, she said the ACLU challenged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s discrimination and marginalization of black families. The ACLU also sued the state of Maryland, whose legislature failed to provide all children the level of education that the drafters of the state constitution required, she said.
“Thousands of families have benefited from the ACLU’s efforts,” Goering said. “Many have chosen to live in areas of opportunity in the Baltimore region — with better jobs, safer streets and good schools. Other families who stayed in Baltimore City are sending their children to new schools and schools that have been retrofitted for the 21st century.”
She is a longtime advocate for volunteering. “It’s a great way to meet and make new compatriots. It’s a chance to lend a hand to those who are less fortunate than we are, and a reminder that as Marylanders we bear some responsibility to make life good for others.”
She also urges young people to get acquainted with a broad spectrum of new colleagues. “Your generation is already more likely to know more people from other countries and build bridges to people of different backgrounds. Those relationships will stand you in good stead throughout your lifetime.”
What is the best piece of advice you ever received and from whom?
When I was fresh out of college I wrote to Saul Alinsky, who is considered the founder of modern community organizing, and he encouraged me to stay on the path of becoming a lawyer. My career trajectory might have been dramatically different. But in retrospect I am grateful for his insightful advice.