Monday, September 22, 2008

Homage to the Emerald City

I had been away on a trip the past two weeks and returned to very warm and pleasant late summer days. While the sun is rising later now, as I eat breakfast and read the paper the house gradually became bathed in a soft golden sunrise. You can’t suppress broad smiles from sheer pleasure when experiencing such days. Late summer days are truly amazing in the Pacific Northwest.

Alas, the past two days have marked a return to our traditionally mercurial weather. It dropped from the mid 70s to the mid 60s, and is misty and a bit overcast. We are hoping that during the NACAC Conference the weather it will rebound to that like last week. However, it is cool, pleasant, and autumnal and, like Seattleites, you might learn you don’t need an umbrella in mist. It is brisk and refreshing, and you won’t melt.

As I envision you coming to experience Seattle I remember my first reactions. I had grown up in the majestic Hudson Valley and then lived in beautiful central New York State. My wife grew up in the picturesque Mohican State Park region of north central Ohio where everyone is nice and welcoming. We both, however, were captivated by Seattle.

Fourteen years ago our children were very young and we were contemplating whether we would remain in the East the rest of our lives or make a change. Of course, when you have children you want what is best for them as your goal is for them to be better people than you. So, while we love New York and Ohio (and many days we sorely miss New York wit and Midwestern wholesomeness) factoring our values, and what we hoped our children would become, Seattle seemed a perfect fit. We have never regretted our decision.

Seattle is a place where everyone assumes you are worth something, until you prove otherwise. It is a city that is kind and one that “works”. People wait for the traffic light to change before walking, drivers regard pedestrians as sacrosanct, and folks automatically say please and thank you. Fair play is innate, rudeness or unkindness is regarded as appalling.

People are people first in Seattle; they aren’t hyphenated based upon ethnicity. We have people who are of Asian American heritage, for example, not Asian Americans. Ethnicity and differences are things to be celebrated but are far down the list of characteristics in defining a person. It gives me great satisfaction that my sons have grown up unconsciously regarding those of Latino, African American, and Asian American heritage as role models, that novels by Sherman Alexie and Debra Magpie Earling were part of their education, and that they seek pad thai or sushi when needing comfort food. The power structure is shared in Seattle: people here wouldn’t have it any other way.

My sons have grown up far more sophisticated than my wife and me. They have mastered all the bus routes and navigate the city with ease, enjoying Bumbershoot, other concerts, museums, the Mariners, the theatre, browse bookstores, and thrift shops. Because it is a kind, secure place we more willingly let go of them. They are smart and as a rule the people of Seattle are good.

Like other natives, my boys play sports in the rain, love the music scene, join their neighbors who attend the movies more any other U.S. city per capita, reach for books for entertainment, and are engaged, informed global citizens, environmentally concerned, and are consumed by a powerful sense of social justice. They have grown up enjoying both marine and aquatic environments, and find themselves arrested by the breathtaking grandeur of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. And, the mild, marine climate assures that they can enjoy the outdoors 12 months a year.

We look forward to welcoming you to this wonderful community. It is a good place to live; it is a good place to raise children. It is about as good as it gets.

Michael K. McKeon
Dean of Admissions
Seattle University