President's Spotlight—January 2024

Source: C. Ken Williams, MS, JD, 2023-24 AAFS President


New Year, New Opportunities, Same Vision

Happy New Year! Three words I'm fairly certain you have heard or seen a lot the past few days. It is the popular and customary greeting heard around this time as one year ends and another begins. I am far less certain about the length of time in which you will hear those three words as some may feel compelled to utter those words the first time they greet you in the new year. This could go on for many days. With some degree of restraint and sensibility, a switch in salutations should occur around mid-January. The out with the old, in with the new three-word salutation of "Happy New Year" should be replaced with the far more traditional and time-tested three words of "How are you?" or the one word greeting of "Hello." This is an anticipated change and one that means we are nearing the end of January. 

Out with the old month of January and in with the new month of February … and all it has to bring. When you think of February, what comes to mind? Some of you may think of Punxsutawney Phil and wonder if he will see his shadow on Groundhog Day (February 2). Forgive me if this causes you to think of Bill Murray for either the movie Groundhog Day or Caddyshack. Both are great films, but I digress. The sports fan or party-goer may think of the National Football League's Superbowl (February 11) and all the food, fun, and festivities that accompany it. Others may think of Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras (February 13) and/or Ash Wednesday (February 14), which happens to coincide with Valentines Day this year. With Valentines Day occurring in February, it is appropriate that the month has been dedicated as American Heart Month in the United States since 1963. There are also numerous other observances in February, including Black History Month, International Networking Week (February 5–9), Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 11–17), and the AAFS Annual Scientific Conference (February 19–24).  

The AAFS Annual Scientific Conference has been a staple in the forensic science community for 70+ years. This year's program, centered around the three-word theme of Justice For All, currently includes 13 special sessions, 23 workshops, and over 1,000 scientific presentations from the 12 AAFS sections. I am very excited by this year's program and the work done by the section program committee chairs and the AAFS Program Committee, led by the AAFS Meetings Team, Chair Matthew Wood, and Co-Chair Karen Rosenbaum. A tremendous amount of work has occurred over the past year to assemble a program featuring world-class research, relevant studies, and thought-provoking forums for discussion. I am also very excited about this year's Keynote Address, which will be given by the New York Times Best-Selling Author and renowned lawyer, Bryan Stevenson. Mr. Stevenson is the founder of the Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and Legacy Museum. As a native of Alabama, hence the southern accent, I had an opportunity to visit the Legacy Museum during a recent trip to visit with family. I also made a quick stop by the EJI for an AAFS photo opportunity. 


Legacy 1

The work done by the EJI to promote justice for all people is both captivating and inspiring, and I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Stevenson about his book, Just Mercy, and the Legacy Museum during the Wednesday morning Keynote Address (February 21). If you are joining us for the meeting next month, I hope you will make plans to attend the Keynote Address and stay for the Plenary Session that follows. Plenary Session Chair Vincent Desiderio and Co-Chair Dino De Crisce have assembled a panel of speakers who will allow us to reflect on the Keynote Address and how the AAFS vision to promote justice for all and integrity through forensic science remains the same. 

If you have not registered for the meeting, please use this as a reminder to register before the price increases on January 19. You must register by January 18 to take advantage of the lower registration fee. You can find information needed for registration, accommodations, travel, workshops, special functions, childcare services, and the FSF Silent Auction by visiting the AAFS Conference Page. When you register, and I hope you have or will, be sure to include add-ons like the Academy-wide "Party on the Peak" (February 23) and a limited-edition challenge coin before they are gone. If you want to know more about the suggested attire for the "party" (hint, hint, FLANNEL) or a little more about the history of the challenge coin and its significance, click here to view all the conference extras, including a preview of the challenge coin. The last day to pre-order challenge coins is February 13 and orders have already been placed for more than 300 coins. Sounds like we could be in store for a lot of challenges at the meeting. Don't miss out on your opportunity to obtain a commemorative coin and to accept the challenge. 

Before you know it, January will be gone. We will put the three-word salutation of "Happy New Year" away until next January and welcome the new opportunities that come with the remaining 11 months of the year. As we prepare for all that is to come with February, I ask that you continue to consider the three words that have been the focus for the past year, Justice For All. For those of you who have decided to be a part of the AAFS Scientific Conference in Denver, Colorado, next month, I offer the three-word phrase of "Thank you kindly!" Remember, I am a native of Alabama. For those still deciding to register or who have not registered, I offer an alternative three-word phrase of "Don't miss out!" 

I look forward to the upcoming meeting and the opportunity to celebrate how the forensic science community promotes Justice For All with you next month. Until then, be well, travel safely, and, on behalf of the AAFS Board of Directors… Happy New Year. Let's make the most of the old and new opportunities to promote the AAFS vision together!        


The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.