With the election of a new president and what seems to be a new direction for our country, we are faced with some age-old questions: What does it mean to be American? What does it mean to be Alaskan? What do freedom and democracy look like? How do we decide what is true and what is false? The humanities are central to finding our way through these important questions.
At their core, the humanities are stories. Philosophy, history, religion, and art are stories told in many forms. They are the stories of our lives; the stories of our past and present; the stories of our human experience. The work of the humanities today is essential because it helps us remember our past and connects us across our vast differences. The humanities provide us with the tools we need to skillfully evaluate, understand, and navigate our complex world.
At the Alaska Humanities Forum we use the humanities to connect people and strengthen communities. In our youth and education programs, we use the humanities to grow cultural connection and resilience in our youth, and to ensure they are graduating from high school prepared to enter college or the workforce. In our leadership programs, we use the humanities to bring diverse leaders together from many sectors to discuss and work on complex community, economic, and political challenges. In our public programs, we use the humanities to host conversations ranging from veterans returning from war to Alaska Native language revitalization to the fiscal crisis to sex trafficking in Alaska. And finally, through our grants program, we have invested millions of dollars over the last 40 years in Alaska artists, historians, filmmakers, and community conveners all wanting to tell their stories. All of this work helps us as Alaskans learn from each other, meet challenges, and find common ground.
What does it mean to be American? I think it means that together we face these difficult questions head on, not satisfied with simple answers, but curious and reveling in our diverse perspectives and experiences. It means that we continue the conversation, listen to each other, and find those areas where we can work together. I believe the humanities are essential in making this happen.
In closing I want to thank you for your support. All of the important work of the Alaska Humanities Forum is only possible because of you. I encourage you continue to support the humanities, both on a national level by advocating for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and at a local level by supporting the Alaska Humanities Forum.