A key focus of mine over the past year has been outreach and relationship building across Wisconsin. As I have been meeting people around the state, I have had many conversations about what matters to them and what they value in the Academy. I repeatedly hear concerns about the divisiveness and distrust between people with different perspectives and the “us vs. them” dynamic—applied to both individuals and institutions.
Reports from recent polls, particularly those by Gallup and Pew, reveal that Americans are increasingly distrustful of executive and legislative government as well as once-trusted institutions such as the courts, news media, and universities. In a trend that is decades long, the fiery partisan rhetoric of recent years has taken a toll and continues to erode trust.
Wisconsin has become known for division. Yet research shows that we have much in common and share many values. Wisconsinites often find common ground on controversial issues. People in our state and across the country are not pleased about the increase in distrust, in vitriol, in division. What I find particularly hopeful is that people do believe in each other, in collaboration, and in the possibility of improvement.
This is where the Academy comes in.
The Academy provides the space that so many want—one that is respectful, where difference is honored, where common ground and understanding can be found. Through Academy programming and coalitions, we encourage a community of curious minds, creative exploration, and scientific examination.
I invite you to join others from across the state, whether in person or online, to engage and connect in meaningful ways. Meet other nature enthusiasts and science explorers through this summer’s Science Talks series, Time Traveling Through Wisconsin’s Geology, featuring renowned geologists and outdoors experts in discussion about the incredible geologic features of our state. Visit the James Watrous Gallery webpage to get to know the Wisconsin artists selected for gallery exhibitions in coming years. Look for details on the upcoming Climate & Energy Agriculture and Rural Resilience Summit taking place in the Eau Claire area. Join us for the Wisconsin Book Festival this fall, with readings by Wisconsin People & Ideas contest winners, whose works were selected from hundreds of submissions from across the state.
The more we connect and the more we experience each other, the greater our empathy, understanding, and trust. I’m grateful to you for being a part of the Academy and helping welcome others. Onward.