Democracy is a Fragile Thing

Have you ever held something precious in your hands – a delicate piece of crystal, an old family heirloom, perhaps a baby bird that’s prematurely fallen from its nest?  These days I’ve been thinking about our democracy as precious, fragile, and needing our attention and great care, not unlike these things we’ve so carefully once held. 

Democracy represents a set of ideals that we’ve strived for as a nation, never likely to be perfect, but we’re aiming high.  I’m concerned that we have, too often, taken our democracy for granted as though it will always exist and always be there for us. 

Our democracy is based on foundational principles, values, rights, and the rule of law.  It requires people to be engaged, to govern, to advance legislation and the laws of our society, to monitor and oversee actions of our elected leaders, and to vote. 

This delicate system also requires truth, honesty and people working together in good faith for the wellbeing and collective good of our citizens.  American democracy is so important to other countries with similar aims across the world. We’ve all likely said the Pledge of Allegiance a thousand times, but when was the last time you really focused on the words of our American pledge? 

Strengthening Connections

Twice a year we’re able to pull all of our employees together for day-long programming – think of it as an opportunity to educate our educators.  We’re in the business of bringing knowledge and skills to others and it’s equally important to be sure that informational updates and development opportunities are made available to our own employees.  Yesterday, we held one of these semi-annual in-service days with a focus on the theme of “strengthening connections.”

Guest speakers from the Sheboygan area, Kim and Jason Kotecki of Escape Adulthood, were the focus of our general session.  They delivered an uplifting and light-hearted session to our team at a time when it’s really needed given all the challenges at hand.  They offered a number of remedies for “adultitis” and our loss, as adults, of that wide-eyed, fresh perspective we once had as children.  Jason is a wonderful artist (and speaker) and Kim is full of fun and energy in all she does.  If you need a little uplifting, check out their website at and you’ll note that they are offering an opportunity to interact with them in a live session every Wednesday evening at 7:45 p.m. CST.  One of my favorite art pieces and messages from the Koteckis is here:

Our staff puts a great deal of work into organizing and delivering a variety of educational sessions and meetings during these in-service days and I’m most grateful for the many contributions to getting our new semester off to a good start.

Reflections on 2020

Whenever there is a major crisis, we often are reminded of Mr. Rogers’ saying, “look for the helpers” as a way to comfort us. In facing the pandemic that virtually consumed 10 months of 2020, I “looked for the leaders.”

I suspect people who never knew they had leadership chops likely discovered they did in 2020 as they helped others navigate through the pandemic. There were so many leaders who emerged at FVTC during this time … far too many to name.  And they came from all of our employee groups – managers, faculty, support staff, adjunct faculty, associates – as well as our students.

Leaders at every level not only navigated their personal and family situations last year, but also supported their colleagues, their students, employers and communities as we all proceeded carefully and thoughtfully to move ahead with the mission of the College.  2020 felt like both the year that just wouldn’t end but, at the same time, the weeks and months sped by so rapidly.  Perhaps that was because our leaders felt the significance of the challenges and yet were so engaged in problem-solving and planning that time simply evaporated.

We managed about 400 employee and student COVID-19 cases in 2020, served as a drive-through testing site and a drive-through food distribution site for Feeding America, transported food and materials to non-profits and donated PPE to area health care systems when shortages were great. 

We also supported a majority of our employees in working remotely and students learning remotely, yet managed to continue about 58% of our courses in-person due to significant hands-on learning requirements.  It hasn’t come without disruption; in fact, it was a year of continuous disruption of one form or another.

It has been good to turn the calendar page to 2021.  And while we look ahead with hope for anticipated improvements to come month after month in this new year, we also need to really appreciate all that was accomplished in 2020.  Hats off to everyone who has found a way to lead, encourage and support others through a very challenging time.