Keeping Our Focus on Teaching and Learning

Students and President George Bridges commemorate the 50th anniversary of Evergreen’s founding

Students and President George Bridges commemorate the 50th anniversary of Evergreen’s founding in the Capitol’s State Reception Room.

Some alumni may remember spring quarter as a time of protest and activism at Evergreen. This spring, national debates on topics such as racism and freedom of expression have been replicated here on campus. We have experienced some disruption, alongside intense discussion. There has been misinformation about what has taken place. Throughout this time, my goal has been to keep our doors open and our focus on teaching and learning, while engaging in conversation on these issues so important to our nation, and to higher education.

Over this time, we have had a chance to talk to many of you and hear your views. Your support and thoughtful responses have been helpful. Get the facts and keep up to date on current events at Evergreen.

Beyond the moment, and as we debate the future direction of our country, we need leaders who value reason over rhetoric to engage with and solve the formidable challenges we face.

It is sometimes tempting to stake out an ideological position, to fault opponents and refuse to negotiate. It is much harder to listen with tolerance and respect, with a commitment to understanding other points of view, with a willingness to find common ground.

One of the greatest gifts Evergreen offers its students is the ability to take the harder path, to embrace and synthesize multiple points of view, and discover solutions to some of the country’s most complex problems.

I saw this in action recently at the Washington Legislature, where Evergreen student interns have served over many years. I joined this year’s group in one of the legislature’s grand hearing rooms, all white marble and wood.

As I sat at a table used for testimony, the students, about 15 in all, arranged themselves above me, in seats normally occupied by legislators. As I looked up at them and listened, they described who they were working for and the issues they were helping steer through the law-making process.

These Greeners are working with distinction and dedication, for legislators from around the state from all political perspectives and on every kind of issue. They reflect the diversity of our campus and many overcame significant personal and financial obstacles to be there.

The interns are using their Evergreen seminar skills to help craft durable legislation that meets the needs of the people of Washington. Their accomplishments and their positive evaluations from legislators are proof they have acquired the intellectual and interpersonal skills to excel and lead in this demanding and sometimes adversarial environment.

From every state legislature to the U.S. Congress, from the smallest town councils to the courts, in social and traditional media, Americans are engaged in vigorous discussion. And Greeners are there, debating, advising, negotiating, leading— using what they learned at Evergreen to communicate across political lines, build trust, and solve critical problems.

Our nation needs Greeners at every level of public discourse and debate as we grapple with profound questions about the future of our country. Witnessing our students’ success in the legislature reaffirms my hope in the future leadership of our state and nation. And, thanks to your enduring support for and connection with Evergreen, we will continue to thrive as a college dedicated to producing those who can learn, listen, and lead.

Sincerely,

George Bridges