I’ve had many conversations about priorities over the last two years. With my kids, the conversations have focused on balancing young adult fun with safeguarding the health of others. With my neighbors, the conversations have been about welcoming new affordable housing while preserving what we love about where we live. I’ve had heartfelt talks about physical and mental health with friends and family members who are grieving, facing job loss, or caring for elderly relatives, and often I find small talk with strangers suddenly veering into existential territory. It seems that, each in our own way, we’re all asking questions about what matters to us and how we want to spend our precious time and energy.
Though the pandemic is certainly responsible for these questions and conversations, we are also grappling with climate change and taking a hard look at everything from travel plans to where we bank and how we cook our food. With increased awareness of systemic racism, we’re reassessing hiring practices, policing, and access to the ballot box. And as our politics and our society become ever more polarized, more and more of us are hungry for common ground, civil discourse, and a renewed sense of the public good. I’m heartened that so many of the people around me are not only talking about these issues but are working toward solutions—for the profound challenge of climate change, for a more functional democracy, and for living up to our nation’s promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all. My hope is that the enforced isolation of the pandemic has underlined how much we really need one another, and that the gravity of the challenges ahead will be met by an equally serious sense of urgency and purpose.
While remaining true to its fundamental mission, the Academy’s work has changed many times over the past 150 years in response to changes in the needs and interests of the people and the state of Wisconsin. With Erika Monroe-Kane taking the reins as executive director this February, our staff will be taking a fresh look at the Academy’s programs and priorities as we move forward into this next chapter together. How would you like to see the Academy respond to the challenges of the present moment? We’d like to hear what matters most to you right now.