December 14, 2020

The Honorable Norman Rice’s (MPA ’74) new book: “Gaining Public Trust: A Profile of Civic Engagement” and lessons learned

The Honorable Norman Rice (MPA ’74) was elected as the first African American mayor of Seattle in 1989 and served two terms earning him national acclaim. When Rice stepped into his role as mayor, the city was experiencing deep divisiveness and polarization. African Americans represented only 10% of the city’s population and the city was engrossed by the controversial issue of using school busing to achieve racial integration.

In his new book, “Gaining Public Trust: A Profile of Civic Engagement,” Rice shares his journey to leadership and public service, and what he’s learned about the critical importance of civic engagement through his notable successes in bringing Seattle’s divided city together.

As our communities navigate the COVID-19 response and recovery, and as our country continues to grapple with its long history of systemic racism and devastating inequities, the lessons Rice learned 30 years ago – during the city’s most contentious times – are still applicable today.

In his recently released book, he shares:

We need both civic and civil engagement. The skeptics among us might look around and say there is no chance for civic engagement that is civil these days because our politics have become so divisive. But I don’t believe that. I believe democracy survives only when we have meaningful engagement of the populace. It takes more than just voting or reading polling data. It is imperative to examine what it means to participate civilly in the political process and go back to the days when we actually solved problems by listening to each other and arriving at solutions together. It isn’t even so much a matter of bringing bipartisanship into the mix; it has more to do with people recognizing we all approach problems differently. Reaching agreement on the problem is just one step. We have to then find a way forward, despite our differences, to get to the solutions that work best.

With honest, thoughtful, and inclusive leadership, Rice successfully created ways to bring together government, businesses, community groups, and individuals to partner and improve the public school system, revitalize Seattle’s downtown, and strengthen neighborhoods.

Read more about the Honorable Norman Rice, his reflections on leadership, and his new book in the December 9th UW Magazine article, “Civic and Civil Engagement”.