Downtown Business Breakfast Welcome Remarks, April 10, 2015

Dr. Daniel J. Martin
Tenth President
Seattle Pacific University
April 10, 2015

It is so good to see everyone here this morning. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us. I would like to add my sincere appreciation and thank you to US Bank for not only serving as our Platinum Sponsor but for meeting the University’s banking needs so well on a daily basis. To all of our Corporate Sponsors – thank you for your support of today’s breakfast as we seek to foster conversations that matter for the greater good of Seattle and our World.
For many of us, this is round two with General Alexander. He enthralled a capacity crowd of over 1,500 people last evening in a public forum on SPU’s campus. General, we look forward to your address this morning and we deeply appreciate your leadership and service to our country.

We are privileged to have SPU alumna, Michele Weslander Quaid, Class of 1991, introducing General Alexander this morning. Michele has excelled in the field of technology and has served on key intelligence projects with the NSA where she became a professional colleague and personal friend to General Alexander. Michele, your alma mater is proud of you and we are blessed by your presence this morning.

The theme of this year’s event is timely and relevant. Hardly a day goes by when there isn’t an article in the Seattle Times that is related to cyber crime, cyber warfare, or cyber terrorism.

Staying abreast and understanding the implications of the rapid development of technology is a challenge for us all. Many of you undoubtedly saw the BMW commercial in the recent Super Bowl that featured Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric. The commercial was a parody of a 1994 NBC Today Show segment where Bryant and Katie were perplexed and confused about a new technology just coming on the scene – the internet.

On that day in 1994, Bryant and Katie were trying to explain to their viewers what an email address was when Bryant famously questioned, “What is the Internet, anyway?” Katie Couric then asked the off-stage producer, “Allison, can you explain what Internet is?”

Of course, we all know now what they didn’t know then, that is, the Internet is something Al Gore invented. I’m convinced though, that if Al hadn’t invented it, George W. would have!

Of course, if there is anything Seattle knows about, it is technology. I recently saw a list of Seattle technology start-ups compiled by GeekWire. Here is a sampling: Microsoft, McCaw Cellular, Amazon, VoiceStream, Concur, Real Networks, Expedia, Tableau, Zillow, Zulily, Swype, BigFish, and PayScale.

And, of course, F5, co-founded in 1996 by SPU alumnus, Jeff Hussey. Jeff is with us here today and he is now serving as the President and CEO of yet another Seattle-based tech company, TemperedNetworks.

So, as we all know, technology is ever-changing, and ever-evolving. In like fashion, Seattle Pacific University has continued to change and evolve since our founding in 1891. From our original five acres, four faculty, and 12 students, SPU has fully matured into a vibrant intellectual and academic community. We are a thought leader, economic driver, and faithful social-change creator. Our total enrollment is over 4,300; our faculty are known as world-class scholars and teachers; the demand for an SPU education remains strong as we topped 6,000 applications for a projected entering freshman class of 740; we constructed and opened a new residence hall this year; and we also recently completed a full renovation and seismic retrofit of our original building, Alexander Hall, completed in 1893.

Thus, as witnessed by technology as well as the development of Seattle Pacific University over the last 124 years, good and positive change is a constant. However, there are other areas in life where change is needed, but progress is a struggle – areas of injustice, inequality, and broader community needs and concerns such as illiteracy, human trafficking, hunger, sexism, racism, addictions, health concerns, homelessness, and more.

In order to address these needs, it is our goal at SPU to graduate students who are able to move from our campus, ready to embody the University’s vision of “Engaging the Culture and Changing the World with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”  

We seek to graduate people who live a life of service, graduates who recognize the gaps, the inequities, and the needs in our world and then imagine how life could, or should be, and work toward that end – seeking change that brings shalom, human flourishing, wholeness, and harmony.

In order to challenge our students to live such lives, we must model it for them. It is for this reason our strategic planning process identified the issue of homelessness as one we will engage in institutionally through an interdisciplinary, curricular and co-curricular approach. It is our goal to become a primary community contributor toward eradicating homelessness in the City of Seattle and King County. Hosting Tent City III for a second time on our campus this winter was our first step in this plan.

While the residents of Tent City III were a part of our campus community, I was privileged to get to know them personally and hear their stories – people like one couple in particular, who I will call Joe and Mary. Their path to homelessness began when they fell victim to a scam. It created a spiral where they ultimately lost their home and belongings. As a result, their arrival at Tent City III provided the needed stability and access to resources that allowed them to find employment and rebuild their life. As Tent City III moved from our campus to the Shoreline Free Methodist Church in March, Joe and Mary were able to move out of Tent City and into an affordable housing program.  

It is possible that aspects of Joe and Mary’s story is reflected in your own or others you know.
The impact of the Great Recession caused many to lose their jobs, lose their home, and lose their hope. However, unlike so many of us, Joe and Mary didn’t have access to social capital and networks to assist them in getting back on their feet. That is why Tent City III was such a critical part of their story of recovery and was vital to making them feel as if they belonged to the Seattle community again.

The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness organizes a One Night Count each year to identify how many people are homeless and without shelter in our county. On January 23 of this year, the early results counted 3,772 of our neighbors homeless and without shelter, neighbors like Joe and Mary. It was concerning to me when I learned this year’s One Night Count reflects a 93.8% increase since 2006. When the number of those homeless in King County with shelter are added, the number of our homeless neighbors stands at over 9,000.

Imagine, if you will, the 1,000 people at this breakfast represent the total population of King County – 2,000,000 people. Based on the One Night Count Statistics from January then, do you know how many homeless neighbors without shelter we would have among us? Two.

As I learned through the life stories I heard as we hosted Tent City III, the path to homelessness is wide and varied; the path to homelessness is reflected in an individual story. But, I also learned about the path from homelessness. I learned it is most effective when the path from is reflected by a collective story, a story shaped by a community, a story where wide and varied strategies and solutions are creatively and courageously implemented.

Of 1,000 people in this room, 2 would be homeless and without shelter – 998 to 2. I like our odds of being able to work together to help our neighbor.

This morning, I invite you to reflect upon what you or your organization might do to join our efforts as we partner with the City of Seattle and the many organizations already doing the good work of creating and supporting the path from homelessness.

In a city that has produced technology that has changed our world, I believe we collectively possess the creative capacity, the institutional and individual will, and the courageous conviction to do the extraordinary and create a pathway of hope for our neighbors who are homeless and without shelter – hope for their future, yes, but also hope for ours – reflecting the type of community we desire to be known as and known for.

May we go from this place this morning encouraged and inspired by General Alexander’s address, and may we also gain a greater sense that no matter what issue or challenge we face – whether it be technological or a community concern such as homelessness – that often the most impactful and hopeful solutions are discovered as we live and walk through life…together.

Visual Communication Student Projects on Homelessness

Professor of Art Karen Gutowsky-Zimmerman's Winter Quarter 2015 Information Design class focused on homelessness — a topic that was not only timely but easily accessible for the 19 students, as Tent City 3 residents were living in the middle of campus throughout Winter Quarter.