We were standing outside of the hearing room in the Capitol Annex waiting for it to become available. The wait had been long. Kentucky’s lawmakers—with a few brave exceptions—were staunchly in favor of keeping the death penalty. A couple had bottled up every abolition measure that had come their way for years.

But for some reason they had relented—at least for a few hours. We were waiting for a hearing that had been called by the chairs of the state House and Senate Judiciary Committees after years of stonewalling. We were going to make the most of it. Several hundred abolitionists and others interested in the death penalty had gathered in Frankfort that morning.

I was waiting in the hallway with a reporter, and we chatted to pass the time. I had gotten the impression before that morning that he was sympathetic to abolition. So it didn’t surprise me to hear him being vaguely supportive. Both of us admitted that the hearing was a minor miracle since both chairs had never expressed anything but support for capital punishment. We also both knew that the road ahead was going to be a long one.

He asked, "How many more times do we have to do this?" At that moment, I had what some might call a spiritual awakening. I was suddenly able to put all of the frustration of our struggle into its proper perspective.

"How many more times do we have to do this?"

"One less," I replied.

Doug Stern

Doug Stern is a member of Louisville (Ky.) Meeting. His impressions at the time of the execution of Timothy McVeigh, Terre Haute Journal, appeared in Friends Journal in October 2002.