We the People: Cody Schuler

Cody is an advocate, adventurer, and proud North Dakotan.

Cody Schuler is always up for an adventure. Whenever he can, traveling is his favorite way to unwind.

But for Schuler, the ACLU of North Dakota’s advocacy manager, there’s nothing better than coming home.

Schuler’s North Dakota roots run deep. He spent most of his childhood enjoying the nurturing environment of small-town life on a farm in the south-central part of the state. As a teen, Schuler and his family moved to Bismarck and he was able to appreciate the opportunities of a prairie city.

“I was fortunate to have a broad North Dakota upbringing,” he said. “While I left North Dakota for college and grad school, I couldn’t stay away!”

So it only makes sense that Schuler’s work with the ACLU has a singular focus – to make North Dakota a better place to live for all of its residents. That’s a lofty goal, to be sure. But as a longtime passionate advocate for human rights, civil rights, and social justice, Schuler’s up for the challenge.

“I always find myself in situations where I’m faced with issues, incomplete work, or something that simply needs attention,” he said. “My impulse is to always leave things better than I found them.”

When did you first hear about the ACLU and why is the work appealing to you?

I first learned about the ACLU as a journalism student in high school and college and have long admired the broad work of the ACLU to defend and advance our civil rights. I’m an Aaron Sorkin fan and one of my favorite moments in the film “The American President” is when the president gives a fiery defense to his political opponent’s attempted insults: “For the record, yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is, ‘Why aren’t you, Bob?’ ” That scene has always stuck with me. The strength of our nation is rooted in the strength of our rights, and good citizenship is based in ensuring those rights for current and future generations. To be able to join this work professionally is not only exciting, but an incredible privilege.

Which of the ACLU’s issue areas are you particularly passionate about and why?

One issue area that is key for me is voting rights. Voting is fundamental to our democracy. Growing up in North Dakota, I was taught to be proud of how our state valued voting access as the only state to not have voter registration. Yet, in more recent years that pride has waned as efforts have been mounted to make it harder for some to vote. Voting is not a privilege for some, it is a right for all and defense of that right gets me fired up.

What is your favorite way to get involved in your community?

As an extrovert and social person, I just seem to fall into community involvement. I like to meet people and I usually end up over involved. I guess I’ve never met a networking event that I didn’t like.

What does advocacy mean to you?

Advocacy is standing up for your convictions and joining with others in your shared concerns in order to make where you live a better place. Advocacy can feel lonely, but it never should be. An individual standing up for what they believe should not be a solitary journey, but the beginning of a shared one!

Why do you think it’s important for people to be involved in their communities?

There is a June Jordan quote I have on my desk: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” It drives me to action. Collectively, we all have a responsibility to stand up and not expect others to address our concerns. Anyone who thinks, “somebody should do something about that” needs to remember they are somebody. Citizenship requires rejection of apathy.

How do you plan on using the work you do at the ACLU to advance civil rights and civil liberties for all North Dakotans?

I want my role as advocacy manager to empower others in our shared work and to make advocacy accessible to everyone. One of my goals is to center equality, inclusion, diversity, and belonging into the work I do. In advocacy, we all too often dwell on our lack of resources, but my hope is that by finding and using their voice, people see how well resourced we actually are! Even when the circumstances seem hopeless, we need to view our work from an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity because our conscience and passion for what is right is often all we need to make progress.

What would you tell someone who is considering joining the ACLU as a volunteer or member?

Contact me! We need you! We have a lot of work to do!

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Which of the Constitution’s amendments are most important to you and why?

I’ve often been drawn to the 14th Amendment because of its role in addressing citizenship rights and equal protection under the law. From reconstruction to today, this amendment serves to keep and expand rights with equality and justice for everyone. Our country and world are very different today than when the Constitution was adopted, and the 14th Amendment is critical to ensuring we can live into our aspirational values as a nation.

What are you most looking forward to as a new member to the team?

Collaboration is a central value of mine and I am excited to join such an extraordinary team at the ACLU! I am also eager to start building collaborative relationships with individuals and organizations across North Dakota. We are always stronger when we come together to share resources, ideas, passion, and energy!