Commencement 2017

…I see my friends here before me, and I feel a deep sense of gratitude as I am flooded with memories of the times we’ve shared.  Although my personal recollections are probably a little different from yours, one thing is for sure:  We’re all very lucky to have had such transformative relationships with our teachers, and to have benefited from such invaluable opportunities to learn.  This, indeed, is St. Luke’s.   

                         – Luke Martocchio, St. Luke’s Salutatorian 2017, Attending Harvard

 

In his impeccable address, Salutatorian Luke Martocchio captured the spirit of Commencement—a time to reflect and enjoy a flood of memories—before the next journey and new memories begin.

I referenced Luke’s “stratospheric GPA” and “the quality of his intellect” when introducing him. But as we listened to him celebrate his teachers—from Mrs. Olsen in fifth grade through a host of Middle and Upper School faculty—we knew Luke’s greatest asset is his huge heart.

Awe-inspiring “intellectual prowess and acumen” describe Valedictorian Grace Zaro. As I cautioned the Commencement audience: “Do not be fooled by her casual demeanor.  This is a scholar who combines innate brilliance with both discipline and a fiercely intense focus.  In high school this has brought her to valedictory heights.  At Stanford and beyond, the sky seems the limit.”

Gracie gave a provocative address. She used “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” protagonist Randle Patrick McMurphy to demonstrate humor is not a cop out:  “When a situation is hard or frustrating, it is the little one-liner, the ability to self deprecate, that makes the fight easier. Humor is not a cop out, it is an advanced defense mechanism. Think about it: it is free, it is legal, it is harmless. It is your opponent’s worst nightmare.”

Class of 2017

Each year, I marvel at the skills of our young speakers and the intense emotional impact of this day. When will I become desensitized? Never, I suspect. It’s an honor to send these wonderful people out into the world. And a beautiful sorrow to bid them farewell. Below is from my Commencement farewell:

“Whatever you achieve in your lives, remember to seek out communities like this one.  Places that offer you connection, the feeling of rootedness, and the timeless values that St. Luke’s has.  We live in a time of constant change, of uncertainty about what the future will hold for us…or ask of us…and of relentless questioning of what many of us considered timeless truths for most of our lives.

As any great skipper will tell you, your moorings matter.  Without that safe harbor, that tether to something stable and comforting, that thing to which you can cling when storms seem otherwise overwhelming – without that, moving forward feels scarier and more difficult.

Soon – at college and throughout your life – you will face tough choices, in new communities and in unfamiliar cultures.  You might encounter a fraternity brother or sorority sister who wants you to drink yourself into oblivion, to prove…who-knows-what.  Maybe it will be a roommate – or a boss – who seems to lack a sense of honor.  Whatever the circumstance…remember us.  Remember St. Luke’s, and all the people who love you.  Remember that here you have constructed a strong moral compass…within yourself.  It’s there.  Use it.  Whenever you feel untethered, remember St. Luke’s.”

Enjoy this Commencement 2017 Photo Gallery (we’ll keep adding photos so check back).

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

Lessons from Penn State

Early this month, 18 fraternity brothers were charged in the death of a young man. He died during a drunken “pledge night.” From every angle, this story is pure heartbreak. For the senseless loss of a life just beginning. For his devastated family. For the 18 “brothers” who did not set out to cause harm—but whose actions and inactions will forever haunt them.

In the wake of this sadly familiar tale, I received the email below. It was written by St. Luke’s alumnus Drew Lord ‘14 to the Interfraternity Council (IFC) at Cornell. In addition to serving as president of the IFC, Drew is president of Cornell’s Cayuga Watchers group which aims “to become an established national model for combating high-risk drinking.”  USA Today wrote about Drew and the group in 2016.

As our class of 2017 prepares to leave the Hilltop and make their way in the world, I’m eager to share Drew’s wise words. I am deeply grateful for his leadership. He is living every element of the St. Luke’s mission and has indeed gone forth to serve:

 

From: IFC President <president@cornellifc.org>

Subject: Lessons from Penn State

Date: May 7, 2017 at 3:30:37 PM EDT

To: IFCALL-L@list.cornell.edu

Hi everyone,

At this point, I’m sure you have all heard the news of the horrifying death of Timothy Piazza, a member of Beta Theta Pi at Penn State, who died after falling down the stairs at his chapter house following a fraternity “initiation ritual.” While the details of this incident are beyond disturbing, they are important for us to reflect upon.

First, we must all recognize that under no circumstance is it acceptable for any of us — or for our peers — to reach a dangerous point of intoxication. Indeed, it seems like there might have been forced drinking involved in Piazza’s situation. It goes without saying that forcing anyone to drink copious amounts of alcohol is unacceptable. However, in more general terms not related to Piazza’s situation, be safe with your alcohol consumption — pace your drinks, do not drink with the goal of blacking out, and be aware of your limits. It’s also important for us to realize that we all have a place when it comes to mitigating the harms of high-risk drinking. Sometimes your brothers, or your peers, need an active bystander to help keep them in check. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being that person.

Second, and most important, if someone is to ever be in a situation like Piazza’s — call for help. Many times we hear our friends advocate for letting a drunk or injured person “sleep it off.” This is problematic — oftentimes, we don’t know whether the BAC of this person has reached its peak and is declining, or if it has rather not yet peaked and still rising in their sleep. Keep in mind Cornell and New York State’s Good Samaritan Protocol, and remember that immediately taking action to do the right thing will always have a favorable outcome for all parties involved.

Third, do not — in any capacity — try to “cover up” any type of incident. The results of the grand jury investigation demonstrate the consequences of acting in the way of the brothers at Beta Theta Pi the night of Piazza’s death. Following a review of GroupMe messages, texts and surveillance video from the night of his death, the fraternity and its brothers faced over a total of 850 charges. Eight of the brothers were charged for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and hazing. Four brothers were charged for reckless endangerment and hazing. Six were charged for evidence tampering, while the chapter itself is facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and hazing. In a situation like this, there is no other option than to seek help from a medical professional as early as possible.

Cornell is not immune to the harms of high-risk drinking or hazing. The situation at Penn State serves as a somber — but incredibly important — reminder of the incident that occurred at Cornell’s SAE chapter in February 2011. Ever since, we have taken great strides to make our fraternity community more safe, responsible, and aware. With a few high-risk days coming up, let’s hold the lessons we’ve learned close.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thanks for reading through, and I hope you have an awesome week.

Best,

Drew Lord
President, Interfraternity Council
Cornell University

 

Drew Lord @ Cornell

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

 

Taking the Lead on Mindfulness

Just over a year ago, I wrote this blog post about the benefits of mindfulness.  I was fairly new to meditation and yoga but increasingly excited about the possibilities—for myself and St. Luke’s.

Since then, I’ve continued to practice and study data around mindfulness. Even more compelling than the science, however, are the people I’ve encountered. Once tapped into mindfulness, a network of kindred spirits began to appear—each with a tale of improved focus, presence and capabilities.

One such spirit, Erika Long,  is St. Luke’s parent. Erika and Will Heins—both former Wall Street warriors—along with Michelle and Nick Seaver (featured in the aforementioned blog ) could not find a secular meditation group locally, so they created one. In May of 2014, New Canaan’s Community Mindfulness Project (CMP) launched.

Just three years later CMP is thriving. Over 6,000 people have attended sessions (including me). This make it happen spirit inspired me to take the lead and create a    St. Luke’s mindfulness event. Thanks to my incredible team, the CMP and The Spence School, The Mindfulness in Education Conference will come to life on June 10, 2017.

In an unbelievable stroke of good fortune, Susan Bauer-Wu, President of the Mind & Life Institute will be our keynote speaker. There will be something valuable for anyone interested in how mindfulness prepares the mind for learning.

All parents and faculty of Fairfield and Westchester independent schools are welcome to attend. I cannot wait and hope you will join us.

P.S. Recommended reading: One Second Ahead, The Mindful Leader, Real Happiness

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

Scholars Symposium 2017

“If Blues Band is the day in the fall when I feel most happy and proud of our community, the Scholars Symposium is that day in the spring for me. I realize what good hands our futures are in when I hear these incredible students sharing their knowledge, ideas, and passion with such remarkable poise and conviction.”

                                                                              -Liz Perry, Head of Upper School

Liz took the words right out of my mouth. Blues Band and Scholars Symposium bookend the school year spectacularly. And I know why: both events leave you in a bit of awe.  You know you’ve witnessed something truly exceptional.

St. Luke’s Scholars 2017

An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.

St. Luke’s Scholars are the School’s mission come to life. Listen as a teenager educates the room about Infectious Disease in West Africa, or Genetic Luminescence, or Damnatio memoriae in the Roman Empire…it’s the epitome of deep learning.

These students become experts and that’s learning that lasts. When you develop a topic, execute a research plan, put forth a thesis, draft an extensive research paper and present your findings in public—I can promise you, it’s something you will remember forever.

Last year, my daughter Sarabeth worked on her Global Scholars project. She studied healthcare and nursing in India. I saw firsthand how a student moves from passionate but fairly superficial understanding of a topic to deep understanding. For Sarabeth, progress came through research, questioning, writing, rewriting and translating her findings into something meaningful for an audience. P.S. She’s studying to be a nurse.

In a few weeks, videos of the Scholars presentations will go online. I’ll share and urge you to watch a few. I bet you’ll find yourself thinking “This is exceptional.”

 

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

Groundbreaking News (Literally)

 

What’s better than sharing good news?

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with students about the new Arts and Humanities Wings coming in the Fall of 2018. We gave students a heads up about groundbreaking before March break, but wanted to explain the new addition in the context of our  vision for St. Luke’s. As I said to students today:  “The world changes so fast and we want to make sure you have a campus and spaces that fuel and inspire learning.”

Addressing the Upper School

 

General Reaction: Smiles

Lead architect Jim Rogers joined our student meetings. Jim shared images of the project and illuminated why space matters. He also outlined three goals of the new addition:

  1. We wanted to create light, bright, open spaces with a lot of flexibility in the layout. The ideal is to  that students come into a space and make it their own. Whatever the activity, we want the work areas to be comfortable, appealing and user-friendly.
  1. The new design brings the Art Department into the fold. The distance between art and the rest of the school can be a roadblock to the arts working with other disciplines—for example a collaborative history and art project. We wanted to eliminate this physical and mental distance between art and the rest of the school.
  1. Creation of a Humanities Wing gives English and History a new space and more of the collaborative, flexible spaces seen in the Science Wing. With all our core departments in the main building, the School will be united. And just as the Science Wing clearly announces to visitors that St. Luke’s values the sciences—the new wings will send the same message about the Arts and Humanities.

Jim Rogers Talking with Middle School

More Smiles from Middle School

 

As Jim and I pointed out to students, achieving these goals brings another major benefit:  St. Luke’s will have distinct Upper and Middle Schools. Right now, the Upper and Middle Schools share classrooms and that requires shared schedules. It’s long been a desire to have enough space for each school to design classes and schedules around what’s best for students. Once these buildings are complete, that vision too will be a reality.

Earlier in the week, St. Luke’s Trustees gathered to lend the construction crew a hand. Take a look to see how that went…

 

Human Connection

Heading into break (with a bonus snow day) is the perfect time to remind ourselves to create time and spaces to be present with our children.

Last weekend, I hosted our Annual Fathers & Friends Breakfast. About 60 of us gathered to talk about raising children in the digital age. Many of us worry that, in a culture filled with distractions and disconnects,  we risk losing our link with our children. We wonder: Are they growing up without the capacities for human connection, conversation and reflection that we developed in our analog childhoods?

Fathers & Friends Breakfast

This was not an anti-technology talk—urging all to smash their cell phones. Most of us in the room are enthusiastic users of technology at work and at home. At the breakfast, we considered whether all that engagement with tech—among children and parents— was robbing us of something precious.

We were fortunate to have Max Grant – Sr. Pastor of Second Congregational Church in Greenwich – join us. Max spoke beautifully about human and spiritual connection and raised provocative questions about connecting as a community (“How do you build community if your town has no sidewalks?”). Max is married to Upper School Head Liz Perry, so I was hardly surprised by his brilliance and empathy (and humor).

After March break, St. Luke’s and the Parents’ Association will screen the documentary Screenagers. I watched it with my administrative team and highly recommend it. A couple of administrators were concerned it sounded a bit anti-tech, so please view it with the lens I describe above: How do we embrace tech without losing something essential, and how might we use this opportunity to reflect on our parenting?

One last point Max and I tried to drive home—finding time to be present with your family does not have to be a controlled, orchestrated affair (tickets to a show, formal family dinner, etc.) or a desperate attempt to carve out “quality time.” It can be driving to the market or challenging our child to a video game match. Hang out on the couch and talk (or not)—even if someone is snapchatting between live chatting. Take the pressure off, let the steam out. Time together will lead to connection.

Happy break to all. Send me a note if you have a family connection moment you’d like to share. If you’re up for a good book, I enjoyed Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle.

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

Five Reasons Student Athletes Should Diversify

 

Baseball was my true love as a kid, but I have great memories of playing hockey and soccer too, and loved cheering on my own children at different fields. As an educator and former coach, I strongly oppose sports specialization because I see wonderful things happen when kids play all kinds of sports.

Many experts agree, from sports medicine doctors to professional football coaches, as do many parents and athletes themselves. Here are my five core reasons:

  1.     Fewer sports injuries: Different sports access different muscle groups. This story in Yale Medicine Review targeted women’s sports specifically, but the same holds true for all athletes.
  1.     Greater competitive intelligence: Not only do different sports access different muscle groups, but they also hone different mental and emotional strengths key to competition. The New York Times reports that in this year’s N.F.L. draft, “90 percent of the players selected in the first round had been multi-sport athletes in high school.”
  1.     Decreases burnout: From the same story, “studies have shown that the rates of injuries and burnout are significantly higher for athletes who pour all of their time and energy into one sport while their bodies are still developing.”
  1.     Opportunity for exploration and discovery: Youth is a time for discovery—on the field and in the classroom. Even more, youth is the time to discover what’s inside you. In order to find out what you love, you have to try it, and as educators and parents, we need to protect the “play” in sports.
  1.     Specialization works on a fixed as opposed to a growth mindset: Sports—especially in school—lose their magic when reduced to wins and losses. I am all in favor of excellence, but I also believe that the pressure to be the best instead of reaching for your own personal best now plagues our society. Teamwork, mentorship, resilience—believing that you can be part of something bigger than yourself—these fade into the background when students grind away at one sport their whole lives.

In the words of Clemson’s football coach Dabo Swinney,  “I see it all the time; They’ve been to every clinic, every camp, every teaching session, and everything’s been squeezed out of them. There’s just not that much room for them to get any better.”

Want to learn more? St. Luke’s parents can join us March 2nd for…

A Healthy Approach to High School Sports

Thursday March 2nd 6-730pm Fireplace Commons

Listen to our panel of experts address a variety of concerns for student athletes.  The topics will include:

Concussion Education by Neuropsychologist Dr. Christina Kunec, Director of Stamford Health Concussion Center

Preventing overuse injuries by Dr. Daphne Scott, Primary Care Sports  Medicine at Hospital for Special Surgery

Sports Psychology by Psychologist Alex Diaz, Ph.D.

Please RSVP by Tuesday February 28th to Anna Knechtel (knechtela@stlukesct.org)

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

SJLS: Curious Leaders

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.”

Samuel Johnson

 

We are all born curious. And if lucky…our curiosity grows.

Tapping our students’ innate desire to know more about each other and the world around us—that is the inspiration behind the Social Justice Leadership Summit (SJLS).

I attended the SJLS in 2014 and wrote: “In more than thirty years as an educator, I have never participated in an event that built as much trust, or inspired as much faith and hope as the SJLS.” Nearly three years later, the SJLS continues to thrive. There were 35 students and faculty the year I attended. This year (January 28, 2017), there were sixty.

Dr. Stephanie Bramlett, Director of Inclusive Excellence & Leadership, describes the SJLS to students this way: “SJLS is a one day leadership retreat where you will explore your own personal identities, learn about perspectives different from your own, and most importantly seek commonalities with classmates. With all the divisions in our world right now, we should all be working a little harder to find commonalities.”

The SJLS is also a catalyst for student leadership, as Dr. Bramlett points out: “Two years ago students put together ideas that inspired the launch of my new American Cultural History class. Last year, students saw a need for more diversity programs in Middle School and this year, those same students will run a Middle School workshop called Ally Afternoon. Another idea that students made a reality is “Dive-Ins” where students host conversations and welcome diverse perspectives. They don’t just talk. They take action.”

I’m particularly enthusiastic about the Dive-Ins because they foster civil discourse—an essential leadership skill.  Topics have included Colin Kaepernick’s controversial protest of the national anthem and a Dive In about students’ hopes and fears around the new president. More than 50 students have dived in to tough, important conversations.

My hope is to have a student or two share reflections from this weekend’s summit. The positive anticipation leading up to this weekend was palpable. According to Dr. Bramlett, senior Matthew Lindsay best captured the pre-summit excitement: “It’s going to be lit!”

I’m pretty sure that’s good 🙂

St. Luke’s is a private independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit!

Visionaries on the Hilltop

This is the second in our Visionaries on the Hilltop series. See first post.

Earlier this week, St. Luke’s Board of Trustees gathered to listen and learn. We had the rare opportunity to hear about an incredible moment in business history—directly from the history makers:  Aris Kekedjian and Dan Janki.

Aris, a St. Luke’s parent, leads General Electric’s Mergers & Acquisitions/Business Development Team and Dan, a former SLS parent (prior to relocating to Atlanta), is senior vice president of GE and the Treasurer of GE and GE Capital. The two recently led GE’s unprecedented and highly-publicized sale of $260 billion in financial assets.

Bloomberg called their initiative “The most sweeping transformation in General Electric Co.’s 123-year history,” and hailed “the speed and shrewd bargaining behind one of the boldest corporate overhauls ever.” (Monty Python to Project Hubble)

I asked Aris and Dan to address our board and administrators because as Aris said, “This is a story of leadership. This is a story of teamwork.”  While St. Luke’s and GE are not peers, we share a focus on excellence and innovation. Learning from other industries is one way St. Luke’s stays ahead of the curve and facing the future.

Aris Kekedjian (left) and Dan Janki at Board Meeting

Aris Kekedjian (left) and Dan Janki at St. Luke’s Board Meeting

 

As expected, the night contained valuable leadership lessons. My favorites …

Move Fast: “Speed is everything” said Aris. Dan added: “When you move quickly and people start seeing results, confidence and momentum build.”

Be Transparent: Originally the pair thought they could move faster if only a small group knew the plan. In Dan’s words, “We soon learned that when everybody has the same information,  it empowers the heck out of them. Good things happen.”

Have Mission Clarity: The two agree this is the most vital element of their success. Per Aris: “The first lesson in life is that things don’t go as they should. But if your mission is clear, you can triumph.”

I am awed and enriched by the leaders among us at St. Luke’s. Thank you Aris & Dan.

P.S. Aris shared his leadership insights with students this fall as part of the Center for Leadership Lunch & Lead series.

 

Trying…Losing…Winning

Walking onto the Hilltop for the first time in 2017, I thought: I am excited to come to work. I feel as excited as I did in 2002, my first year at St. Luke’s. Back then, I was driven by goals and possibilities. Today, I am still fueled by results—a thriving community, exceptional teachers, a campus that just keeps getting better, and students who astound me.  

Just before break, Student Council President Porter Bowman ‘17 delivered a Meditation. In it he shares defining moments from the year, including his recent appearance on Jeopardy Teen Tournament.

As everyone who watched Porter’s Jeopardy appearance knows…he lost. But that’s not how Porter sees it.  As he told classmates, this went through his mind after betting and losing it all during Final Jeopardy:

I stood there realizing my dream was ending…Deflated but not defeated in that moment I wanted to shake the hands of the explorers, pioneers, scientists, politicians, leaders and authors whose individual life’s work had helped propel me to that Jeopardy stage. I look back on the years of classes and teachers and memorable moments that fill nearly every nook and cranny of my brain, including my heart and my soul…I didn’t need a win to validate my passion.”

Porter is an authentic leader. He’s genuine, unafraid to be real and vulnerable. He turned what could have been a negative experience into an asset that deepened his love of learning. Then, he had the courage to shine the spotlight on his loss and say but look what I gained. With humor and grace, Porter demonstrated that “taking risks” and “learning from failure” are not lame platitudes but a powerful strategy for growth.

At the State of the School, we talked about having a mission vs. living a mission. As Porter describes his deep love of learning, strong moral compass, and commitment to serve (the confidence to lead is self evident), it’s clear our mission is living, breathing, and playing Jeopardy.

 

 

Happy Holidays Video

We have many beloved traditions at St. Luke’s—few more eagerly anticipated than our annual Holiday video. Once again, I am amazed by Visual Media Director Desiree Smock’s ability to capture the spirit of our Hilltop.

 

Get ready to smile…

 

May friendship and goodwill be yours this holiday season…and always.



The Confidence to Lead

A group of ten year olds earnestly discusses whose life they will affect—the young woman in Indonesia whose village needs water filters, or the young man in Jordan trying to pay his school fees?

 The Fifth Grade Kiva Club is making a difference in the lives of people all over the world. Their teacher (Ty Wieland) provides structure and students take the lead—presenting work to peers, driving support and selecting fund beneficiaries. So far, the Kiva Club (including advisories and families) has loaned $6,400 to more than 120 people working to better their lives .

Take a look at the video below, created by our students (with a bit of help from Ty and Academic Technologist, Eli Fendelman). I watched it and marvelled at the elements of our mission on display—an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.

I am grateful to these compassionate, young leaders who are living our mission. They inspire their peers, teachers and, most of all, their  Head of School.  

 

 

Teachable Moment: Civil Discourse

Every four years the St. Luke’s History Department organizes and oversees a mock Presidential election at school, with advisories dividing up into states to “replicate” the Electoral College.  Last week’s mock election showed that we had many students and faculty supporting each candidate, with roughly one third voting for President-elect Trump and roughly two thirds voting for Secretary Clinton.  Our outcome mirrored Connecticut’s but not the national results, and we saw democracy in action.

It won’t surprise anyone to learn that emotions were high on all sides going into this election, and we have seen that continue in the days since November 8th.  Not surprisingly, the divisions we see in our country at large also play themselves out here at school.  In a few instances, this has led to behaviors not in keeping with our core values, school culture or Honor Code.  Knowing this, and wanting to remind everyone of our expectations, I made the following points at this week’s Upper and Middle School town meetings:

-At St. Luke’s we value respectful discourse and encourage discussion of different viewpoints.

-Among other things, respectful discourse means not making your disagreements personal.  For example, it’s not in keeping with our values to call someone an idiot, or to suggest that they are a bad person, or a racist because you disagree with their point of view.  We expect that no one will engage in behavior or use language intended to intimidate or humiliate anyone.

-If you’re struggling with how to manage a difficult or emotional conversation, seek out a faculty member or an advisor for advice.

-Our culture of kindness doesn’t mean you can’t disagree or strongly argue your point. In fact, debate – respectful debate – is the essence of a healthy democracy, and a core element of what it means to participate as a citizen of a democracy. Whichever candidate you supported, and whatever policies you agree or disagree with, now and in the future, I hope every one of you will not shy away from understanding the issues, debating them with others, and working hard to make our democracy strong and healthy.

What I didn’t say, but perhaps should have, is that everyone has a right to feel how they feel.  If you feel excited and optimistic because your candidate won, that’s understandable and OK.  If, on the other hand, you feel sad and fearful, that’s also understandable and OK.

Since November 8th we have seen a spike in overt harassment of minorities in schools, including schoolyard bullying, taunts, and even the Royal Oak middle school students seen chanting “Build the wall” on a video that went viral.  It’s not a partisan act to condemn these things and to assure those people in our community who fear what could happen to them or their loved ones that we will keep them safe here at school. This is how a school community acts with integrity and stays true to its fundamental values.

And so we will encourage—no, insist on—civil discourse at St. Luke’s.  While we have no wish to monitor every interaction among students, when we learn of students not respecting each other we address it and will continue to do so.  As the St. Luke’s Honor Code reminds us:

As members of the St. Luke’s community, we will maintain and encourage integrity at all times.  We will be honest in what we say and write, and we will show respect for ourselves, each other, and all property.  We will treat everyone with kindness, and we will accept responsibility for our actions.

Read Look for the Beacons for more about honor at St. Luke’s.

 

Look for the Beacons

Yesterday, a most extraordinary couple visited our Hilltop for a Lunch & Lead. Scott and Tiffany Smiley delivered a message of hope. Thank you Kim family for making their visit possible. I can’t think of a better message for the times…

Tiffany & Scott Smiley

Tiffany & Scott Smiley

Captain Scott Smiley lost his vision April 6, 2005. He was serving his country in Iraq when he spotted a suspicious car. He approached the vehicle and asked the driver to step out. The driver refused and seconds later, Scott’s “world went black.”

He was a young newlywed when the car bomb stole his vision, and his dreams. But, as Scott told our students, “I had to make a choice. Do I stay angry and fearful? Or do I  move forward?”

With the help of his wife Tiffany, Scott moved on. He became the Army’s first active-duty blind officer and its first blind company commander. He surfs, skis, skydives, is an author and completed an IronMan. In short, Scott faced what felt like the end and made it his beginning.

“Don’t ever let the world tell you what you can be,” Tiffany urged students. “Follow the conviction of your heart.”

The Smileys speak of relying on one’s moral compass to get through dark times. For our community, St. Luke’s mission can be that beacon: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.

It’s hard to imagine a more critical imperative for a school— or a parent— than the creation of compassionate, ethical and inclusive leaders.

I have a confession and a dream. I hope to someday see a St. Luke’s graduate elected president. The country and the world would rejoice secure in the knowledge that this woman or man has lived by a timeless St. Luke’s Honor Code…

I will maintain and encourage integrity at all times. I will be honest in what I say and write, and show respect for myself, others, and all property. I will treat everyone with kindness, and accept responsibility for my actions.

See you at the inauguration.