Preservation Magazine, Spring 2020

President's Note: We Are All In This Together

Paul Edmondson.

My president’s note for this issue of Preservation was originally going to focus on the challenges we all face together in addressing the global problem of climate change. Our cover story on the Tidal Basin serves as an important reminder that many historic places we treasure are at risk due to climate change—whether evidenced by rising tides, massive wildfires, catastrophic storms, or other devastating events.

But, as this edition of Preservation goes to press, the country is facing yet another worldwide challenge: the upheaval and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19.

Like so many other organizations, the National Trust has closed our offices and our historic sites. We have asked our employees to work from home, contributing to a nationwide effort to “flatten the curve” in order to better position the country to respond to the current threat. We have canceled numerous in-person events and meetings, and we are doing our best to use our digital resources to connect with the public and with our many partners across the country. Like others, we are deeply grateful for the work being carried out by health professionals, emergency responders, and community leaders and volunteers who continue to serve the public and help protect our most vulnerable populations, while we continue our ongoing work to preserve historic places as best we can.

As I write this, it is impossible to know whether our historic sites will be open and our staff members back in National Trust offices when you receive this magazine. But, as the United States and the world respond to this crisis, two points come to mind.

First, now more than ever, we can look to our history for courage, comfort, and inspiration. As a nation, we have overcome existential challenges in the past, and we will overcome this one as well. In so many ways, our historic sites and cultural landscapes embody our resiliency and our fortitude, and they serve as places of comfort and inspiration in both ordinary and extraordinary times.

The second point is simply that we must meet these challenges together. Addressing the effects of climate change—whether at the Tidal Basin or the many other historic places at risk—requires that we work side by side with partners, with experts, and with the public to bring the full breadth of ideas and resources to address a global problem. Meeting the current health, financial, and social challenges of the coronavirus crisis also requires the same level of commitment and cooperation.

Whether the issue in question is environmental sustainability, preserving our communities, or responding to a global pandemic, we are all in this together. If we remember that, and act accordingly, our history affirms that we can overcome these challenges.

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Paul Edmondson is the president & CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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