About 18 years ago I found myself at the annual hunting camp of my friend Bruce, who was at the time the under-Sheriff for Park County, Wyoming.

Both Bruce and I are originally from Minnesota, so when I moved to Wyoming he took it upon himself to orient me to Wyoming culture, at the center of which was elk hunting. I had never hunted for anything bigger than a pheasant before, so my “orientation” proved to be a steep learning curve. Nevertheless, having successfully shot a cow elk in my first season, Bruce felt I was ready to join him and his buddies at his hunting camp for my second hunting season. By “buddies,” I soon found out, Bruce meant a gathering of about 10 law enforcement officers, most of whom were also from Minnesota. Among them was Jim.

Jim was maybe 10 years older than I was, a retired officer of the Minneapolis Police Force, and a great storyteller. We hit it off almost immediately and were soon sharing our stories of life in Minnesota: fishing, farming, hunting and, of course, the weather. But, when Jim began to tell his stories about providing police coverage for anti-war protests on the University of Minnesota campus, it was more than his great storytelling that made me feel as if I had been there too ... because I had been.

Jim sat there quietly as I shared with him that I had been one of those protesters and that it was highly likely that he and I had been on the University of Minnesota campus on the same day, on opposite side of the protest lines. When I finished, Jim remained silent and I wondered if this would be the quick end to a budding friendship. But then he said “those were different times,” and then he and I went on to share more stories and a great hunting weekend ... and I felt included.

Inclusion. A foundational part of our LBCC mission, one of our five Values and one of the seven strategic initiatives in our strategic plan. Obviously, inclusion is important to us at LBCC ... but it’s also hard. Inclusion is easy when we all see things the same way, say things the same way, walk down the same road the same way ... but we don’t. Instead, we bring — we embody — differences in history, culture, beliefs, economics, race, gender, sexual orientation, and hundreds of other differences that tend to separate us into camps, place us on opposite sides of issues, and on the opposite sides of protest lines ... like Jim and me.

Nonetheless, Jim and I saw each other across those lines and included each other in each other’s lives. Perhaps it was the vantage point that comes from being a decade or two away from and older than we were at our first “meeting,” but what we realized in our second meeting at that hunting camp was that there were good patriotic Americans — and good people — on both sides of those protest lines.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I, along with many scholars, suspect that the writers of the Declaration of Independence did not fully appreciate all that would come to be understood in these words, but few would suggest that they would be anything other than pleased with the expanding and absolute understanding of Inclusion that the word “all” has come to mean for us as Americans… and for us here at LBCC.

“To engage in an education that enables all of us ..."

Whether we wave a peace sign or an American flag, whether we stand or kneel or lock arms in solidarity, whether we know God’s name as Jesus, Yahweh, Allah or some other name, whether we are Native American, European American, Latino American, African American or some other American, whether we are gay or straight or something else, and whether we are liberal or conservative or something else, there is nothing in these differences that make us anything other than good people who have a right to and a place in our country, our community, and here at LBCC. This is what inclusion means: “All of us.”

Greg Hamann is the president of Linn-Benton Community College. 

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