Dear Chautauquans,

Many of you know that as President I am incredibly fortunate to work from an office that overlooks Bestor Plaza. This is a grand vantage point in any season, and especially as night falls late in the year, when the Winter Village lights paint our picturesque town square in the colors of the season. I’m reminded of the first stanza of “Day is Dying in the West,” a staple of our summertime Sacred Song Services: 

Day is dying in the west,
Heav’n is touching earth with rest,
Wait and worship while the night
Sets her evening lamps alight
    Through all the sky.

Today is the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, and as we approach the longest night of the year, it’s comforting to celebrate and appreciate anew that which brings light to our lives.

Indeed, we on the year-round Chautauqua staff are toasting our shared blessings this very moment at our annual holiday luncheon. I’m proud that this team’s work is a source of light for so many who partake and find value in the Chautauqua experience. Collectively, through our shared mission of lifelong learning in service of the common good, Chautauqua is truly an example of the “Communities Working Toward Solutions” whose hope-inspiring stories we will hear during the Fourth of July week this upcoming summer.

The lights currently illuminating Bestor Plaza are a wintertime reflection of the light Chautauqua sparks inside all of us when we assemble here each year, at the opposite end of the calendar. Stirred by the brilliant expressions of intellect, artistry and playfulness encountered across the grounds every day, hearts and minds are set ablaze by ideas and inspiration. And then, we fulfill Chautauqua’s true purpose: We carry that light with us into the world, hoping to stoke the embers of positive change wherever we call home. I hope you’ll continue to share with us the stories of how a Chautauqua experience has brightened your community’s life, and that you’ll join with me as we launch a new strategic plan in 2019 that asks us how to keep the Chautauqua experience alive year round, both here on our sacred grounds and in places far from the shores of our majestic lake.

I look forward to the day, not too far off now, when we gather again, and children’s laughter, student quartets and Shakespeare soliloquies light up Bestor Plaza, in their own special way. In the meantime, there is much work to do, and more light from Chautauqua for us all to disseminate in the world. Season’s greetings from these sacred grounds. Wherever and however you celebrate, may your hearts be full of joy and cheer and your days be merry and bright.

With gratitude for each and every one who calls themselves a Chautauquan,

Michael E. Hill