Category Archives: Public Service

20th Century Historian Tells Students “Be Alert to threats to Democracy”

The Jackson Foundation and the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies were fortunate to have brought major scholar and public intellectual Timothy Snyder, the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University, to Seattle to give a lecture. His recent book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, has resonated with a world-wide audience and has been published in a dozen countries. Along with this #1 New York Times Bestseller, he has written several other award-winning books on World War II and the Holocaust.

Snyder has become something of a rock star historian and activist with “On Tyranny,” since it speaks about the current threat to our democracy and the need to be aware, active, and on guard. Talking to an overflow crowd that had to be accommodated in a second large room at the University of Washington on a beautiful spring evening in late April, Snyder stressed that all of us share a duty to understand events and resist when warranted. Drawing lessons from Germany in 1933, he warned, “If we just react, it will be too late.” “People normalizing the new reality” is one of the hazards of today’s highly charged political environment.  “Politics involves consent,” Snyder cautioned. “If you decide this is just fine, it is hard to go back.”

Drawing on American history – and our founding fathers – he told the crowd to be wary of complacently assuming that our institutions can withstand any assault. He said, “Institutions won’t protect us on their own.” He encouraged the many students and community members present to ask themselves, “What can I do for institutions to make them stronger?”

As a historian steeped in European history, Snyder takes a broad view of what he sees as the diminution of democracy across the globe and the lapsing of democratic norms. “Swastikas on the wall matter today – even if they are on the Internet,” he reminded us. He voiced particular concerns about focusing on social media as opposed to true journalism, suggesting, “Find an investigative journalist and follow him or her. Subscribe to newspapers.”

Snyder riveted the crowd with his twenty lessons for today’s world and his description of the slide towards tyranny. He invited students to ask questions and they did. It was heartening to see the interaction and to witness the power of scholarship, activism, and this call to be awake and present in the real world rather than a virtual one.

We are proud to have partnered with the Jackson School to host this important scholar here in the Pacific Northwest.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director

Washington State Attorney General Provides Leadership Tips to Jackson Fellows

When you decide to go into public service, you don’t usually expect a lot of glory. Particularly if you’re running for state attorney general. But fame and attention have caught up with Washington State’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, who recently sat down with our Jackson Leadership Fellows to talk about making tough decisions as a leader, learning from past failures and mistakes, and having empathy and understanding for your opponent’s position.

Why such acclaim for Attorney General Ferguson, who retains a good-guy, low-key and approachable persona despite being the focus of numerous hero stories? Ferguson has made Washington State one of the battlegrounds for court cases challenging the current Administration, most notably regarding the Muslim-ban for several countries directed by President Trump. Ferguson talked to the Fellows about the need to reach decisions quickly, even when one would prefer to have more time to sift through pros and cons. “Most of the time in leadership you’ll need to make hard and fast decisions,” Ferguson advised the Fellows. “You better get comfortable with it.” The Attorney General, who spent his young adult years as a chess champion, tends to see challenges through a chess prism. “Assess your losses first,” he counseled. “Be objective about your mistakes and learn from your defeats.”

Ferguson also places ethics at the top of his list of key leadership qualities. “Pay attention to your behavior;  your team is watching you,” he warned the Fellows. Character counts, he said. He emphasized, “There are clear lines to delineate right and wrong,” something that drives him as a politician and as a public servant. “Trust your instincts,” he stressed.

In conclusion, Ferguson urged the young Fellows to consider public service – be it full-time or part-time careers – as a valuable path in life. He was drawn to it in order to help people.

2018 Fellows with Attorney General Ferguson from left: Stephanie Celt, Stephen Robinson, Arianna Muirow, Joe Nguyen, Jeremy Wood, Danielle Granatt, and Christina Sciabarra

The Jackson Fellows were rapt as Ferguson discussed leadership challenges. They understood and valued his perspective on current political affairs. We are grateful to the Attorney General for sharing his views with our Fellows. He has sat down with every cohort of our program!

I think it’s fair to conclude that Bob Ferguson has used his public life well to date, and we can expect much more from him. He is truly a leader in the Jackson tradition.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director