Seminar for Civic Education features keynote speaker Sarah Van Gelder
Yes! Magazine co-founder Sarah Van Gelder spoke about her extensive road trip at the Ralph Munro Institute’s Seminar for Civic Education series on Nov. 1 to demonstrate that sometimes it takes 12,000 miles to learn about the issues our country faces.
Upwards of 50 students and community members filled Bellingham’s The Majestic Ballroom on Wednesday night to attend the seminar hosted by the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education. Gelder was the seminar’s keynote speaker, chosen to talk about her extensive U.S. road trip and the people and social movements she encountered along the way.
Dr. Vernon D. Johnson, director of the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education, put the seminar together in hopes that students and community members would be able to take something home from Gelder’s speech.
“The word that she uses in a lot of her writing is ‘resilience’, and I think that we need to hear messages like that during these times,” Johnson said. “Civic education involves educating students about the issues that are important in their community and encouraging them to take action.”
Whether it be civil rights, protecting tribal lands from development or ensuring that communities have access to healthy food choices, Gelder has been involved with all sorts of campaigns and movements. She encourages people who want to make a difference to look no further than the communities that they call home, because there are problems everywhere and, with them, there are opportunities for change.
“After years of editing, it was time for me to go out and learn more about what was happening for myself,” Gelder said. “Maybe there’s a solution out there that I haven’t seen yet, maybe there’s some evidence out there that can give me more hope.”
Gelder spoke a bit about her background but devoted the majority of her time to her journey that brought her to 18 different states. Along the way, she was able to meet numerous leaders around the country who are all working to make a difference in their own communities.
Michael State, a senior political science major, attended the event in hopes of learning a bit more about Gelder’s journey.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to come out and hear a new speaker and I’m excited to hear it,” State said.
After Gelder’s speech, there was an open Q&A in which students and community members were able to ask questions and talk with Gelder about the content of her speech. A member of the Lummi tribe stood to commend Gelder for her work with the tribes and gave her a heartwarming thank you for her continued support.
After the speech concluded, several audience members asked around for help in finding local opportunities where they can make a difference.
Trinity Dana, a senior humanities major, was one of those students who sought out opportunities for action.
“I thought she was very easy to listen to and very engaging,” Dana said. “I felt inspired to not only continue hating racism but to do something about it.”