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Alumni Spotlight: Finding Common Ground in Politics
September 4, 2014
Democratic State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (US’03, C’07) was elected by Washington’s 34th District in 2010, just three years after graduating from Principia College. Since then, he has focused considerable attention on environmental issues—leading to his appointment as chair of the House Environment Committee in January 2014. In fact, his love of the environment paved his path into politics.
While at the Upper School, Fitzgibbon started a club to build awareness among students about key environmental issues. "Because of Prin,” he notes, “I felt the great possibilities of what one person could do to improve the community and the world. I also learned that only blessings can come from giving our all to something we believe in deeply.”
Fitzgibbon credits his Upper School experience for other lessons as well. He says his track and cross-country coaches, Bill Simon (US’54) and Blair Lindsay (US’72, C’76), taught him to persist and to evaluate success from a spiritual rather than a material standpoint, lessons he relies on heavily in his work as a representative.
Concerning the College, Fitzgibbon recalls loving his work with political science professors John Williams (C’76), Dr. Brian Robert (C’88), and Dr. Julie Blase. Yet his biggest takeaway wasn’t the wisdom of any single individual but, rather, the ethos of the institution as a whole. “Other schools might focus on how to build one’s own career, but there’s a very public-spirited approach at Principia,” Fitzgibbon comments. “The emphasis is on working to bless the community. Things like abroads and the Pubic Affairs Conference show how Prin is expanding that strong sense of community to embrace the rest of the world.”
Fortunately, along with that expansive sense of community came strategies for dealing with differences. “In the work that I do, there are a lot of disagreements,” Fitzgibbon notes. “Prin definitely fosters respect for differing points of view and teaches you how to have a productive discussion in order to find common ground. That’s extremely important.”
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Principia Purpose, where you can find other profiles of young alums making a difference in their fields of endeavor.