Most SSFS community members will know that SSFS undertook a diversity audit in the spring of 2019, leading to the creation of a comprehensive report to the school community and the formulation of a diversity audit Action Plan. The action items are listed in the report, linked above. This blog post seeks to update the school community on the work done over the past few months in response to the action items.
I thought that we could begin the evening with my offering some comments, and then go into questions and answers.
Let’s begin by unpacking the following assertion: “Sandy Spring Friends School will change the world.” Or we can start with an equally audacious statement: “We are here to help our kids acquire the tools necessary to lead lives of meaning such that they make substantive contributions to civil society, model dignity, and experience wonder and beauty.”
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the day of service. This is one of thousands of events across the country honoring the memory of Dr. King. So let me ask, why do we celebrate Dr King? Why is he one of the greatest Americans that ever lived? Where did some of his ideas come from and what have we learned from his example?
Dr King was a minister and an activist. He was really, really good at both of those jobs. The reason he is famous today is that he had a vision that changed the world. He never stopped believing that we can all be members of the same beloved community.
He modeled courage by speaking “truth to power” expressing a boundless faith in humanity’s unrealized potential. He saw a world where children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
There is so much to love about this time of year. Here are a few of my favorites.
Hot chocolate. Even better with marshmallows floating on top. Older brothers and sisters coming home for the holidays. My kids coming home for the holidays. Twinkly lights. A radio station that only plays Christmas songs. Ok, I listen to NPR but it’s still nice to know.
I also love that going to a Chinese Restaurant on Christmas can be a family tradition. And if we go someplace new during the Winter break, we use our Qibla compass to find the proper direction to pray. And at work we have secret Santa games. And at home we have dreidels. And we bundle up to go outside even when it is freezing to sing Christmas carols or to go to Midnight Mass.
When I was named Head of School in 2010, Ken Smith, my predecessor, told me (not for the first time) that it was the best job in the world.
He was right.
I would like to extend a warm welcome to everyone: faculty and staff, seniors, their buddies, all of the other students and any parents who have snuck in. (There are always a few.) My welcome goes to all of us who are glad to be back and, especially, those of us who are attending our first All-School Assembly. This is where are traditions are on display, our enthusiasm is evident and where we celebrate those of us who actually enjoy singing and dancing in front of a big crowd wowing us with how they make and share beauty....
[W]e are here for two vital things. One is to learn and to learn how to learn. The other is to connect; with each other and all those around you.
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?