How to Approach 2021: A Conversation With CU’s Patty Limerick

Patty Limerick is the Faculty Director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado. She’s also a professor of history at CU, and for decades has celebrated her role as the university’s “fool” on April Fool’s Day, noting that in the past, kings and queens recognized the value of appointing “fools” who would speak openly on uncomfortable matters. Like the rest of us, she hunkered down in 2020, which gave her time to think about what she’d like to see happen in 2021. She shares her four proposed initiatives for the year, and limericks to brighten the new year.

“I am housebound, but many of my engagements, including mentoring, are on Zoom. So I have written a limerick I hope will be an inspiration,” said Limerick.

When I found myself living on ZOOM

I thought I would wither, not bloom

So where some find fatigue, I find joy and intrigue

And a refuge from boredom and gloom

Limerick also shared four ways she believes Boulder could shepherd the state and world in 2021 during the pandemic:

  • Boulder could lead college towns nationally and internationally, in convening the first “2021 pandemic-era intergenerational truth and reconciliation initiative.”
  • Liberal Boulder County residents could help bridge the political divide by engaging more conservative Weld County residents on political issues.
  • Boulder could lead a social/psychology experiment to determine if the age-old assumption that there are introverts and extroverts – and use the pandemic to see if that is actually true.
  • The pandemic has illustrated differential hardships of the virus. Boulder’s social/science community could demonstrate how that maps with pre-existing political divisions, based on income and racial inequity to help create more alliance and empathy.

“In 2021, we better keep finding places for a sense of humor in these dire and troubling circumstances,” said Limerick. “So here are three additional limericks about vaccines we need – for nostalgia and the use of the words normal and complacency.”


The most important vaccine has never been found nor foreseen

Nostalgia is spreading

No one knows where it’s heading

Nor what its symptoms will mean


My authority is not at all formal

And my powers are not supernormal

But I see trouble ahead, with hope falling dead

Til’ we are free of that useless word normal


Complacency brought us to peril

With views that were brittle and sterile

If it regains its power, we’ll have reason to cower

As we head out to hell in a barrel

More about Patty Limerick and her writing can be found at the blog, Not My First Rodeo.