Opening Remarks Department Retreat 2020

Johanna Shapiro PhD

Increasingly I’ve noticed people are just saying 2020 as a kind of short-hand for the pile-on of calamities that have struck and continue to afflict us this year: the suffering and deaths resulting from the pandemic; the anti-racism demonstration and ongoing racial injustice culminating in the lack of indictments for the murder of Breonna Taylor; forest fires engulfing our beloved state and the entire Northwest; hurricanes and floods; the devastating death of the Notorius RBG. This particular poem was my way of saying, really? How are we supposed to manage all the monstrous things that are being thrown at us?

Yet what I love about this department is that, if you look at our history, we have always had to deal with challenges, we have always been stretched thin, overburdened, under the gun, and we have always figured out a way. This, I think, is because the department is larger than any of us individually, and is rooted in ideas of service, equity, justice and compassion that inspire us even when we worry we have nothing left to give. To paraphrase a much better poet than I, Maya Angelou, “Still we rise.” Even when we are trod down in the dirt, even when we are broken, somehow we find the laughter and the joy. Somehow we rise. My fervent hope is that this retreat is an opportunity to refind our centers, to reaffirm our values, and to strengthen our bonds with one another.