Every election, my parents would joke about how their votes would cancel each other’s out. They agreed to disagree and there were some topics my parents did not debate. However, when my siblings and I became teens, no topic was off the table and our political debates raged long into the night—sometimes they still do. To put it mildly, political and cultural divides run deep in my family. So too, in our state. So too, in our country.
Democracy is not for the faint of heart. We learn this each furious election cycle. Our deeply held opinions rise and collide, our appreciation of other perspectives dims. Every time we see that so much is at stake. Even as we share concern about top priorities, we disagree on facts. We have moved from the Age of Information to the Age of Disinformation. In this “post-truth world” the lines are etched deeply between us.
Through all this, the Academy serves as a nonpartisan convener, a calm place for shared explorations and experiences, amplifying the extraordinary and serving as a touchstone for what connects us. Across Wisconsin, we have stood in wonder under the night sky, were collectively awe struck by images from the James Webb Telescope. We have marveled and been moved by artwork that we encounter in public but which feels personal. We have learned and gained insight from writers who have honed their craft to adeptly reveal nuance and inspire deeper understanding.
For 150 years, the Academy has weathered storms with the people of Wisconsin, remaining reliable and relevant. As we recover from debates and disagreement, I’m glad we are meeting here under the umbrella of sciences, arts, and letters, where there is room for us all.