Katherine Schiffner: Hope isn’t a refuge; it’s a starting point

A visit to Pearl Harbor prompts thoughts about the hope that pushes us to work toward our goals.

Kathernine Schiffner is director of public relations for Everett Community College.

Kathernine Schiffner is director of public relations for Everett Community College.

By Katherine Schiffner / Herald Forum

There are a lot of reasons to feel hopeless now: rising prices, global warming, war in Ukraine and covid-19, to name a few.

Where do we find hope when we need it more than ever?

I got a little of my hope back during a visit to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial on O’ahu, Hawaii. The site of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on the United States that killed 2,403 U.S. military personnel and 68 civilians may seem like an odd place to find even a shred of optimism.

I was surprised to hear the outstanding National Parks Service guide at the USS Arizona, where 1,177 men died, talk about hope. With sorrow, he discussed the heartbreaking loss of life and the destruction and damage to 19 U.S. Navy ships that day.

He also explained that all but three of those ships returned to service. One of those ships was the USS Nevada, which fought back at Pearl Harbor. As the ship began to move through the oil-slicked waters of the harbor, other sailors saluted. That was a radical act of hope. The battleship went on to fight in the European and Pacific theaters of the war.

On December 7, 1941, Everett Community College, then known as Everett Junior College, had only been open for three months. Starting the college in September 1941 was a community act of hope. With many students and faculty members leaving EvCC to participate in wartime efforts, keeping the college open took a lot more than hope.

So if my grandparents lived through the Great Depression and World War II, does that mean I should toughen up and swallow my feelings of hopelessness? Pretend everything is fine? Or think hope is a luxury reserved for people who can afford Hawaiian vacations?

I am confident their answer would be no. They’d want better for me, for their great granddaughter and for our country. My Grandpa Jack would tell me that I need hope, especially when I fear it leads to bitter disappointment. I need to believe change is possible.

My grandfather would also say that hope alone is not enough. It is the first step. It’s followed by risking my heart to take action and having reasonable expectations about the impact of that action. My family’s donation to the EvCC Foundation isn’t going to keep all our students in college. To the student who received that money, it is hope.

Choosing to go to college is, in many ways, one of the greatest expressions of hope possible. You might fail a class (I did, in high school). You may not earn your degree as fast as you want. You could have life get in the way of school for a while. It is a risk.

Every year, more than 17,000 EvCC students choose education as a means to a brighter future. We do our best to nourish their hope and see it grow.

On June 17, I’ll be in the crowd at the Angel of the Winds Arena, cheering as EvCC students receive their degrees and certificates. Graduation is my favorite day of the year. Students and their families radiate pride. Together, we find a little bit more hope.

Katherine Schiffner, a former reporter for The Herald, is director of public relations at Everett Community College.

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