Why Seattle?

Chances are, the software on your computer, the cup of coffee you enjoyed this morning, the jet you flew on your recent flight, the video game you just played, and the online store where you bought nearly everything you need—those fundamental innovations that made your day—all began right here in Seattle. It’s a fact: for 150 years and more, Seattle has been a city on the go, shaping and reshaping the way we live, work and play, and having an outsized impact on the world beyond. MOHAI shares that story.

But why Seattle? What is it about Seattle that makes it so important and unique? Start with the environment: mountains permanently snow-capped; lakes and bays formed by ancient glaciers; forests dense with evergreens; and archipelagos of islands, many of which can be reached only by water or air. The human response to that stunning environment has been a never-ending conflict between stewardship and exploitation, enjoyment and destruction—a push and pull that has important lessons for a world facing profound questions of sustainability.

There also are important lessons to learn from the history of the communities we build. The city’s population is drawn from many nations and enriched by many traditions, all coming together in common cause, but at other times pulling apart in conflicts over race and class. Seattle history sheds light on our increasingly interconnected world. After all, Seattleites traded with Asia long before the term “Pacific Rim” was coined; journeyed north to strike it rich in Canada and Alaska; and eventually did big business with the rest of the world. What does it mean to be a strong community? What does it mean to succeed on the global stage? The answers can be found, in part, in the story of Seattle.

Why Seattle? Because in a constantly changing world, Seattle’s long tradition of inventiveness and ingenuity illuminate what it means to be a place of innovation. Its history exemplifies what it takes to stay on the leading edge, be a community willing to take risks, collaborate across boundaries, and persistently aim for the Next Big Thing.

This is Seattle. And the lessons we can learn from this journey from wilderness to world stage open the window to the larger American journey as well—a story filled with the excitement of new opportunities but tempered by the challenges of constant, often difficult, change. The Seattle story sheds light on our own personal journeys, as well as what our predecessors can teach us about how to build on our history but not be bound by it.

Come and discover Seattle at MOHAI and learn about our community, our world, ourselves.

Leonard Garfield

Executive Director, MOHAI