Saturday, February 27th marked the 8th Annual Search for Meaning Book Festival. Born of the vision of Dr. Mark Markuly, Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry, the book festival has now become a signature university-wide event that SU President Fr. Stephen Sundborg, SJ described as the biggest university event held on campus. The annual one-day festival offered general sessions, keynote presentations, book signings, and interactive experiences bringing together people of all different disciplines, expertise and experiences. This year, the event drew a slate of over 50 diverse and renowned authors and presenters from all over the country speaking about topics like racial injustice, Zen Buddhism, healthcare, spirituality, art, interreligious work and more! Throughout the day, over 1600 guests filled rooms to capacity to hear award-winning authors, artists, theologians, and journalists discuss what they have discovered in their quest to make meaning of the human experience.
During the first keynote of the day, award-winning novelist Suki Kim offered a packed auditorium an unprecedented and moving look into the day-to-day machinations of North Korea’s totalitarian regime as detailed in her book Without You, There is No Us. Over the course of 10 years, Suki Kim traveled to South Korea five times, witnessing both Kim Jong-il’s 60th birthday celebration as well as his death in 2011. As the only writer to ever go undercover in North Korea, Suki Kim witnessed the total control that North Korea exerted over its people’s lives, secretly recording everything she witnessed.
The second keynote featured Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder and his book Mountains Beyond Mountains—the story of charismatic humanitarian Dr. Paul Farmer and his effort to address the global health crises of AIDS and TB through his nongovernmental organization Partners in Health. Kidder inspired hundreds as he shared Dr. Farmer’s philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.”
This year, for the first time ever, the festival also featured exhibitions that explored the artistic expression of the human search for meaning. Festival participants were spilling out of the Vachon Gallery to join artist and author Julia Cameron’s workshop on expanding spirituality through creativity. An artist for over four decades and sometimes referred to as the “creativity expert,” Cameron challenged festival goers to face their desire for a more fulfilling life and offered practical tools for encouraging the process.
Additionally, over the course of the weekend, the School of Theology and Ministry hosted special dinners to gather and honor Catholic priests from around the Pacific Northwest region as well as supporters of the school and festival.
Overall, the event boasted huge success made possible by the tireless efforts of over 100 volunteers, staff, students, alumni and faculty. Participants from all walks of life had the opportunity to listen to and interact with some of the most currently influential authors and scholars as they reflected on their own personal search for meaning. The Search for Meaning team is already hard at work imagining an exciting event for next year—save the date for next year’s Search for Meaning Book Festival on Saturday February 25, 2017. Be sure to submit suggestions for your favorite authors to come to Search for Meaning 2017!