Letter from the Director
How many times in the past months have you read or written an email with the now-clichéd phrase, “these unprecedented times”? To be sure, the COVID pandemic has upended our lives while we also face political polarization, gross social inequalities, environmental devastation, and nation-wide calls for racial justice. At such times, we may embrace an easy cynicism—or even sink into despair—as we consider the role we play in causing and solving these problems. Elizabeth Lesser, author of Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes, maintains individuals and organizations need to transform in order to face the circumstances brought on by the pandemic. When feeling overwhelmed she reminds herself: “You were made for these times.” While other generations have had their own great challenges and met them, we too need to rise to the occasion.
The histories, big ideas, and stories from the humanities disciplines offer perspectives from communities and individuals who were made for their times. I always turn to abolitionist writers such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and Sarah and Angelina Grimké as examples of those who used their voices and lives to heal their communities—even when the odds were against them. They were made to fight for their times, and so are we.
At Humanities Montana, our dedicated Montana Conversations and Speakers in the Schools experts are well poised to remind us that humanities perspectives are brilliantly appropriate for times like these. Our speakers have been busy revising their discussion topics for virtual formats and are scheduled to visit communities and classrooms online throughout the fall and winter. I truly do hope you are faring well during these unprecedented times; I also hope the humanities help you find strength and comfort because we were made for times like these.
Randi Lynn Tanglen, Ph.D.