They call it the Brawl of the Wild, the annual football rivalry between Montana State University and the University of Montana. This year, ESPN GameDay appeared in Bozeman for the 121st Brawl of the Wild, and so did the Leadership Montana class of 2023. The Brawl of the Wild was a perfect backdrop for our November class, as it allowed for three days of friendly ribbing and a fashion competition of “cute” gold and blue Bobcat garb versus fierce maroon and silver Griz wear, all in the spirit of civility.
Our three days in Bozeman were spent learning the art and design of Gibson guitar manufacturing, the warm welcome of downtown businesses, and architecture, Indigenous culture, innovation, and student smarts and spirit behind the MSU brand. We learned from the perspectives of Leadership Montana alumni, via the community conversations roundtable, a feature of the program that is becoming one of my most loved opportunities for learning. Like many of us in the room, our alumni are kept up at night by the workforce and housing crises, by climate change, by the loss of agricultural land and the erosion of family farms, and by our country’s fatigue in the worldwide science and space race. I find comfort in knowing that these smart and successful Montanans, who represent varied industries, join me not only in my worry but in my pursuit of solutions, solutions that are grounded in hope and collaboration, and creativity.
Leadership Montana is both an invitation and a reboot for us to come together to solve our most wicked problems. And, if we commit to sharing space with new and different people, along the way, we may find ourselves enjoying a beverage with new friends too late in a crowded bar, rolling our sleeves up together to have hard conversations, and rethinking long-held beliefs, because “damn, that’s a good point!”