Address by Leonard Garfield, Director of MOHAI

At our 70th anniversary celebration in 2018, Leonard Garfield, director of the Museum of History & Industry, gave a wonderful speech about the inextricable link between the sport of rowing — and specifically Green Lake Crew — and Seattle’s history and core values. We publish the speech here, so that more people can enjoy his remarks. 

Good evening everyone. Welcome to the Museum of History & Industry on this beautiful evening. My name is Leonard Garfield and I am the director of MOHAI.

This is a special evening because it’s not often in a city as young as ours that we get the chance to celebrate an institution on their seventieth anniversary — and for a history museum, we relish that kind of accomplishment. So, it gives me great pleasure to wish Green Lake Crew a hearty and heartfelt 70th birthday. But tonight is much more than that. Because in celebrating Green Lake Crew we are also celebrating who we are as a city.

When I look back at Seattle’s history — which I get to do a lot in my role — I find a few core values that have characterized our region and distinguished us from the rest of the nation. Let me give you three: 1) our deep and enduring connection to the water, 2) our uncompromising work ethic and commitment to innovation, and 3) our belief in a strong community, of pulling together. And you don’t have to look very hard to realize that Green Lake Crew embodies all those core values. In fact, in ways both subtle and profound, Seattle’s tradition of rowing has shaped the larger culture of our city — even when you may not expect it. One example: Look up! Above your heads is the very first commercial aircraft ever built by the Boeing Company, the B1, assembled by craftsmen just yards from where we are standing now. It literally launched a new age in human history. You know that.

But what you may not know — though if you look closely you might be able to tell — the pontoons of this flying boat were built by none other than rowing legend George Pocock. Over the entry desk you will see one of George’s singles, built not long after — a reminder of how Seattle’s rowing tradition shaped an industry that would change us forever. And that’s just one example. In a city so keen on change and transformation, rowing has been a true constant. We have other teams and great athletes, of course, but no other sport has taken hold of us as a city — and never let go. My historian colleagues who study sports in American life often say that baseball is the American constant. That may be, we’ll concede that, but I let them know that in Seattle — it’s rowing.

In fact, the long legacy of the UW rowing program — stretching back more than a hundred years, up through the Legendary Boys in the Boat and subsequent Olympiads, all the way to the current power house — is, by far, the longest running and most successful sports team in our city and our state’s history. (I understand Joe Rantz’s daughter, Judy, and Joe’s grand daughter, Jennifer, are with us tonight.)

I mention the legacy of the University of Washington program because that brings us to this special night, and a chance to pay tribute, after seven decades, to one of the most inspiring offsprings of the Washington rowing legend — the Green Lake Crew.

With much of the scrappiness of the UW “Boys,” Green Lake Crew started with little, and created an enduring legacy, touching so many Seattleites, for so many years, in ways both personal and profound. There are some great oral histories being assembled to capture that story — you’ll see some clips in the video tonight — but the impact of the program, and its breadth and depth across our city, is perhaps best reflected when you travel around Seattle and hear the same words from people of all ages: “Oh, yeah, I rowed at Green Lake.” It is a tradition that binds so many — and that is a very precious thing. This mighty program on a little lake has made such a big difference in our city and our lives.

by Leonard Garfield
MOHAI Director
GLC 70th Anniversary Celebration
November 17, 2018

Thank you to all who attended our 70th Anniversary Celebration in November 2018. It was a fantastic night of reconnecting and recommitting to the mission of Green Lake Crew.

You can view photos of the event here:

Courtesy of Alex Grummer

Courtesy of Lenny Kong

Proudly sponsored by Christie Law Group, the George Pocock Rowing Foundation, and Pocock Racing Shells