A few years ago, Tina and I were with our daughter Kiah in Akagera National Park in the eastern portion of Rwanda. We were in a Toyota Rav4 stuck in a very deep mud puddle up to the axles. We were, maybe, 25 miles away, but it would take six hours to find the men and a truck to get us out. I had been meaning to ask both Tina and Kiah something so I turned it into a game. It went like this: If you could spend a year doing anything you wanted to do to make yourself happy, money was no object, you could go wherever you wanted and do whatever you wanted, what would it be? That was the first question. The second question was: If you could spend a year doing whatever you thought would bring the most amount of light into the world, heal the planet, bring joy to people, correct ills, create beauty and money was no object what would it be? The third question: Would the two years be different?
Sandy Spring Friends School strives to occupy a niche among independent schools in DC/MD/VA by being a welcoming, inclusive, respectful school community for its students and their families. We will be a school that values every student regardless of the language they speak at home, the religion that they practice, their color, gender, or background. We also seek to be a challenging, encouraging, and exciting school where every student finds a way to reach beyond what they find to be comfortable to achieve academic, creative, artistic, and athletic experiences that will give them new understandings, deeper connections and a love of ideas.
Welcome everyone to our graduation ceremony honoring the Sandy Spring Friends School Class of 2019. In particular, I want to recognize the parents and family members, the grandfriends and neighbors, the brothers and sisters and, of course, the incredible faculty who have come today to celebrate these young women and men who have earned not just a diploma from Sandy Spring Friends School but our respect and gratitude. Each of you, all members of the Class of 2019, have argued with us, debated us, irritated us, made us laugh, pointed out our mistakes, given us pause, amazed us, improved our minds and, now, you carry our hopes.
As our nation’s attention continues to be hypnotized by sensationalist political tweets, Mueller reports, the burgeoning list of Democratic presidential candidates, and celebrity antics, the most relevant, shocking, and far-reaching news story of the century -- no, the millenium -- seemed to barely registered a blip on our public consciousness. I’m of course referring to the IPBES release of the “Summary for Policymakers of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.” Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? And who is the IPBES, anyway?
How many of you were here in 1960 for the ground breaking (or ribbon cutting) for either Scott House or Moore Hall?
How many of you were here for the ground breaking for the construction project in 2003 that transformed Sandy Spring Friends School?
I can draw a straight line across 58 years that lead us to this time, this place, this moment as we stand together able, now, in a way that is more real, more tangible and more exciting than ever to dream about a space that we have designed for inquiry, experimentation, innovation, advocacy, problem solving, collaboration, delight, discovery and sustainability.
Words have been spoken and unspeakable events have occurred where the intent has been to roll back civil rights that recognize and protect LGTBQ+ people, brown people, black people, people who have been incarcerated, victims of sexual abuse, people who worship in synagogues and those who worship in mosques, and people who come to this country out of fear and persecution.
Not here. Not in our house. The Sandy Spring Friends School community affirms our shared commitment to protecting civil rights for all individuals. As a diverse community inspired by and dedicated to Quaker values of equality and inclusion, we stand in support of all of our brothers and sisters and their right to be accepted and respected in public life. We are a safe and welcoming space for all. We are glad that you are here.
It is with great joy that I welcome our Lower School parents, grand friends, students, faculty and staff to our Winter Holiday Assembly.
One of the things that happens this time of year is that the days get shorter and shorter. Have you noticed? We wake up and it is night and, sometimes, even before we get home from school, when we have something right after school, it is already dark. So different from the summer when it seems that no matter how late we get to stay up, even when it is our summer bedtime, it is still light outside.
This is the time of year when light is most precious.
It is winter, and it can be cold and rainy outside. Before too long, it will snow, and many of us will put our pajamas on inside out or backwards or whatever fashion statement is required to positively influence the likelihood of a snow day. But between now and then, we have a few more days of school and then we close this place down for two weeks and when we come back, like magic, it will be 2019.
But first, we assemble so that we can do some things that we always do right before Winter Break. We are about to learn which faculty or staff will play the Grinch is in our traditional “How the Grinch Stole the Holidays” skit; we are about to sing the most wonderful and rambunctious Christmas song like no other school in the world does; we are going to ooh and aah when we see, once again, how great we dance and sing and play music.
On Oct. 25, I sent an email to the Sandy Spring Friends School community reiterating a simple message: We are family. Today, Oct. 29, after the events of last week and over the weekend, I am moved to write again–like last time and the time before that and the time before that–to say that our School and the community that sprung up around it and that nurtures it and is nurtured by it, is a beloved community.
Sometimes, when I close my eyes and visualize Sandy Spring Friends School, I see a tree with wide branches that welcomes all. In good times, under the canopy, we can be noisy, boisterous, playful, welcoming and courageous. In not-good-times, under the same canopy, there is space to be reflective, confused and disappointed. We can be in shock. But we will always be welcoming, and we will always be courageous.
From time to time, I get to talk to people about Sandy Spring Friends School. I get very excited. I love this place. It is my beloved community. You are my beloved community.
What this means is that every time I come on campus, every day when I am here with you, I feel a pull to be my best self. I look for the Light within. Within each of you. And when you look at me and you see the Light within me I know that I am where I am supposed to be. This place, this day, I am where I have been called to be.
And, from time to time, someone will ask me “Is Sandy Spring Friends School a bubble”? This question is sometimes asked with a degree of skepticism. Underlying the question is this notion that if Sandy Spring Friends School is too nice, too pleasant, too understanding then, when students are no longer here, they will not be prepared for the real world. We will have somehow disadvantaged them.
Yes, Sandy Spring Friends School is a bubble. And this is why.