I try not to get too political on this blog, choosing instead to focus on exploration and adventure, and all of the things that lure us into the great outdoors. But, there are times when having a platform like this one means having the opportunity to speak your mind and share your thoughts on current events as well. This is going to be one of those times.
“Over the course of the first week alone, we’ve witnessed actions that conflict with our co-op values on issues including climate, the environment, women’s rights and the singling out of individuals based on nationality and belief. These issues are core to the health of the outdoors and the ideals of our nation.”
He goes on to add:
“We know our employee base and our membership span the political spectrum on any given issue. And we embrace respectful dialogue and debate. But it’s important for me to be incredibly clear about the following—we are an organization, and a country, built on inclusion. We believe we are better when we come together, when we are open and when we are welcoming.”
In the rest of the later, which can be read in its entirety here, Stritzke goes on to reaffirm REI’s commitment to being open and accepting of all people, regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation. The company is focused on applying its considerable philanthropic funding on opening up the outdoors to more people, and protecting it for future generations to follow, something that Trump’s dangerous views on climate change could threaten.
REI wasn’t alone in speaking out either. Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle also sent a memo to his employees yesterday as well, and he didn’t mince words either. Boyle told Columbia staff that “We are here because the United States was open and tolerant enough to let us in.” Which is a reference to the fact that his parents fled Nazi Germany in 1937, ended up in Portland, and founded the company a year later. Now, it is one of the biggest outdoor brands in the entire world.
You can read his entire letter by clicking here, but the gist of it is that Boyle – and Columbia – do not accept or condone the current direction that Trump is taking the country, and see it as being completely against the policies that this country was founded upon. In the note, Boyle reiterates his personal commitment for being open, tolerant, and accepting of all people, noting that those qualities seem to be in short supply at the moment.
These are powerful words from two major forces in the outdoor industry. I salute both REI and Columbia for taking a stand, and agree with everything they have said. As someone who has traveled the globe extensively, I can tell you that I have seen the best and worst that mankind has to offer. But, for the most part, travel opens your eyes, makes you more open to new experiences, attitudes, and ways of life. I am troubled, aghast, and ashamed of where my country stands on accepting immigrants and refugees at the moment, and can only hope that someone within the Trump administration sees the light and changes direction soon. This is not the country that I have grew up in, which has always had a rich history of accepting anyone with open arms.
These are troubling times, but for the other Americans that are enduring this with me, know that we are not alone. Many have already taken to the streets and protested, and more will follow. To my friends from abroad, please keep in mind that not all of us support what the President is doing, and the majority of us did not vote for him. We hope to navigate through the challenges ahead and come out in once piece on the other side. But there are indeed dark days ahead before we see signs of improvement. Lets get through this together and get back to being a country that can lead by example, rather than one that is afraid, intolerant, and close minded to the point of being closed off from the international community.
I’ll close this post with another quote, this one from Emma Lazarus. I’m sure most of you have heard it before, but it is worth repeating now, more than ever.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”