This edition of ResoLute explores the connections between Norway and our Pacific Lutheran University community. We surely can ask what still links PLU today with its founding by Scandinavians in 1890 — anything at all? Many are familiar with the pictures of PLU’s founder the Rev. Bjug Harstad, the Norwegian flag flying in Red Square between the American and Washington state flags, the Norwegian names of many campus buildings. To some, these are near and dear reminders of our university’s beginnings. To others, these are foreign images of another culture and another time.
In a time when labels of people and ideologies are too quickly and carelessly meted out, it is a welcome challenge to search for the bridge — rather than the wall — between past and present, one culture and another. On my fall visit to Norway, accompanied by ResoLute storytellers seeking to bridge those gaps, a striking image in the Oslo area lingered. Construction cranes towered over the city, seemingly around every corner. Taller than Viking ship masts or pines in the Norwegian forests, these cranes reminded us every day of our visit that Norway is changing.
In the time since Bjug Harstad and many Norwegian immigrants came to the Pacific Northwest, Norway has grown to be a wealthy country active in its humanitarian roles facilitating peacebuilding, contributing to global development goals and searching for ways to identify itself in a multicultural, diverse 21st century. It is a process not without its growing pains, but a process we can learn a great deal from.
This issue of ResoLute presents specific examples of Norwegian values and present-day discussions and debates that remind us of the value of a foundation, an identity, an openness to bridging a past and present. Today in our PLU community, we explore the ways in which underrepresented peoples of Norway, such as the Sámi indigenous group and people migrating to Norway from around the world, are part of contemporary Norwegian society. We put our inspiration for Norwegian peacebuilding to work in the larger Tacoma community, through the vibrant and unique Greater Tacoma Peace Prize organization that honors our own local peacebuilders. We recognize our Norwegian, international alumni as important connections between the more recent past and today. Last but not least, we can be inspired by our PLU students who have ventured to Norway to study and experience for themselves Norway’s political, cultural and environmental relevance in the world today.
The sociologist Hans Magnus Enzensberger once remarked that Norway is at once an ethnological museum and a laboratory of the future. We can venture to say that heritage does not only mean the relics of a past, but the values we inherit and carry in our PLU community of the present and the future in new forms and in new ways. Welcome to this issue of ResoLute, an exploration of our bridge — our link — with Norway today.
Associate Professor of Norwegian and Nordic Studies