The Ebb and Flow of Politics

By Nathan Johnson, AIA Minnesota President

Welcome to 2018!  As I write this column for Matrix, the ebb and flow of political events drive the news, including “historic” tax cuts, the “historic” election in Alabama where a Democrat was elected to the United States Senate for the first time in decades. In November, two new mayors were elected in Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota’s two largest cities. And just over a year ago, Donald Trump was elected President. At each of these elections, I observed raw emotions, including frustration, anger, sadness, happiness, elation, and disbelief.

Emotions may control the moment, but we understand change takes time. AIA Minnesota was founded in 1892. (More than a 125 years ago – wow!)  In that period, Minnesota and the nation have changed many times over.  Architects have been actively engaged in that change. Let’s continue to be actively engaged in the political process in 2018.

As our political wheels keep turning, I am comforted by the Theodore Parker quote, often cited by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  So, at each of these events I find myself taking a moment to reflect and know that not one of them will completely transform my life, but I can be confident we will move in the right direction. It reminds me of the grit it takes to make substantial change that can benefit a lot of people. 

The AIA Minnesota Board of Directors has been thinking hard about how we can bring about substantial change; how we can bring the best value to the architectural community in Minnesota. AIA Minnesota and each of the local Minnesota chapters today is actively engaged in the political process. The Government Affairs Committee and other volunteer leaders work tirelessly advocating for architectural interests at the State Capitol. Last year, the boards of the AIA Minneapolis and AIA St. Paul chapters did a great job of engaging in the political process, introducing architecture to mayoral candidates and introducing mayoral candidates to the Minnesota architectural community.  This aligns with our strategic priorities to: 1) “Build and Mentor the Profession of Architecture,” and 2) “Make Architecture Accessible, Understandable and Highly Valued.”

I am excited about AIA Minnesota’s strategic priorities.  I believe the strategic priorities provide clear direction for what we should be doing now and into the near future.  They provide flexibility, so the association can be nimble and address the concerns of practice in the real world. Simple enough that we can align our programming to meet member and public need.

I do believe meeting this need is a collective effort.  In 2018, there are number of statewide political races. Each of us can look for opportunities to engage and participate, and we can take time to understand how AIA Minnesota is advocating on the profession’s behalf. We have a great community of architects. We are passionate, creative and persistent.  Let’s apply that passion, creativity and persistence and go make the moral universe a little more just.

View the full January issue of Matrix.