Guest Blog Post: Trustee Steve Sherrill, on the All School Meeting Address He Would Have Given

This weekend, we welcomed our trustees and many other alumni and parents to campus for meetings and also the 137th Andover-Exeter sporting contests.  Over the course of the last several days, I have received a lot of feedback about the All School Meeting address that I gave on Wednesday morning after the presidential election.  One reaction came from an Andover trustee, Stephen Sherrill, Class of 1971.

Steve raised some questions about my address and told me that he would have given a “different” address had he spoken to the students.  In the spirit of open dialogue and with his permission, I am posting below his alternative All School Meeting address.  I believe that now, more than ever, we need to talk constructively with one another when we disagree politically so that we can move forward our nation and our world.  Even as Steve and I plainly disagree in various ways, I embrace his constructive criticism and look forward to more dialogue in future.  Steve’s comments to me follow and appear in italics:

It was interesting to me that a need was felt to address the student body in reaction to an election result. I do not recall such a need being felt in the past. So, why this time? And, if I were called upon to speak, what would I say? Here goes:

We awoke this morning to an unpredicted election result. It has made many on this campus unhappy; it has made many elsewhere in America happy. That fact, above all, we must recognize. Neither side can ignore or discard the views and votes and sentiments, the needs and hopes and pains, no matter how expressed, of 50% of the American electorate. In a democracy all voices must be heard and all viewpoints considered. Whether we like it or not, the political arena is not one in which discourse is necessarily more sensitive and more thoughtful , less attention-seeking and less provocative, than the discourse prevalent in social and entertainment media and unfortunately in private spaces – in each of our “locker rooms”. And political actors on both sides of the aisle seize upon extremist and intemperate statements by the other to amplify rather than mute them.

In this election, the negative campaigning, the focus on personality, the apparent animosity between the candidates, the “attack” language, has been unprecedented and distasteful. The electorate has been uniquely unhappy with both candidates. Both have character flaws that one might view as disqualifying. Many felt both candidates were unsuited for the job. Of those, most voted for Donald Trump, despite the offensiveness of much of his rhetoric (if “tweets” might be given the once elevated title of rhetoric) and personal conduct, especially with respect to women. Obviously, many voters overcame this because of Hillary Clinton’s conduct relating to her maintenance of a personal server, her relationship to donors to the Clinton Foundation and a sense of dishonesty in addressing these issues. More importantly, many felt alienated from the political status quo. They felt their needs were not heard or addressed. Remember, Donald Trump was perhaps the last choice of the Republican establishment – many question whether he is in fact at heart a Republican. Just as Bernie Sanders, who has not in fact been a Democrat, received virtually the same amount of electoral support in the Democratic primaries as Hillary Clinton. Clearly, the fundamental truth of this electoral season has been dissatisfaction with the political status quo.

So what do we focus upon going forward? Clearly, continuing to be knowledgeable about political issues is important. In this respect, we should first challenge the views that we hold, whether they be liberal or conservative. The truth is that the state of affairs that is routinely characterized as “divisiveness” or “gridlock” consists in large part of a difference in strongly held views about what is best for America. Perhaps in better understanding the views of the other side, we will come upon some areas for greater agreement. Perhaps the best solution is not to blame somebody for “gridlock” when the truth is that there is a bona fide disagreement and, perhaps, no real effort has been made to compromise.

Take, for example, the contentious topic of immigration. At one end, as the caricature would hold, are the nativist bigots; at the other, are drug dealers and job-stealers. These are the caricatures that in this election have been used by both sides to attract voters and drive turnout. Of course, these caricatures are misguided. In a more thoughtful characterization, on the one side are Republicans who oppose “amnesty” as benefiting lawbreakers while law abiders wait in line; on the other side are Democrats who will accept no solution without citizenship (i.e., the right to vote). In the middle are the American workers who are dealing with unemployment and lacking income growth and the American economy which is employing immigrant labor. Is there a middle ground? One which legitimizes the presence of hard-working, tax payers without an easy road to citizenship? Perhaps, but only if politically driven messaging by each side can be overcome and the legitimate concerns of all addressed. And let us not ignore the difficulty of the immigration issue: few would deny that a country must have control over who comes to live in it; few would deny that immigrants (including illegal ones) have made valuable contributions to our workforce and culture. Both realities must be recognized for a solution to be realized that will be acceptable to all except those committed only to political gain.

Many voters for Hillary Clinton overcame doubts about her character to vote for the policies for which she stood. And it was probably even more difficult for many voters for Donald Trump (especially women and Hispanics) to overcome his offensive comments to vote for the policy direction which he articulated. (And, by the way, in some important respects, many Trump and Clinton policies seemed the same: infrastructure spending, trade, protection of Social Security.) Those votes do not represent tolerance of the candidate’s character and behavior. And we should recognize that.

We must not seize upon the mistakes and weaknesses of others who are our political antagonists to banish their voices. We must challenge ourselves to think, to be open to viewpoints of others and to focus upon the issues our country faces. We must not accept preconceptions and orthodox opinion. We must not take the easy route of denying the legitimacy of differing viewpoints because of the sometimes offensive manner in which they are expressed. Only listening and considering will we be able to bridge gaps and deal with the issues important to our future.

All School Meeting: Post-Election, November 9, 2016

Good morning, Andover.

We gather here in All-School Meeting after a night that goes down in American history as one of the most unpredictable and anxiety-provoking any of us has ever witnessed. I am well aware that this morning there is a wide range of emotions in this Chapel: for some, despair, fear, anger, and similar emotions roll around in your gut and in your head; for others, there may be gladness at the outcome; for still others, a sense of steeliness and resolve; and so on. I am glad we have this place to come together. I am glad we have one another to be with, in the midst of a nation and a world that is so plainly divided.

I want to share some thoughts with you that are not directed at any one person or any one group, but at all of us – all of us – in this community. After that, we will have a short piece of reflective music from the chamber orchestra. Mrs. Elliott and Mrs. Griffith also have some words to share with you.  And then, the Chapel will be open for us to remain and talk together until the next period begins.

This morning, I am focusing my own thoughts on why I came to Andover. I came here because I recognized and admired in this community the values that are most important to me. I know we talk about these values a lot in this Chapel, in All School Meeting, and I think it is more important than ever that we take the time this morning to reflect on them here together. I choose to spend these moments today thinking about what is in our control and what we can manage, right here and now, at Andover – to be part of the healing and part of the solution to a problem of divisiveness that is undeniable this morning in America.

We start with Non Sibi. We embrace together the idea that thinking and acting for others must guide our lives – not for self. Andover has stood for this value for 239 years and it will for ever more. I call on us today, and in the days to come, to can act with the empathy and kindness toward one another that is at the heart of the Non Sibi spirit. That is hard, I am certain, for those who feel attacked and abandoned this morning, and there are many who do. Non Sibi teaches us at Andover to be a community guided by love and tolerance. It is on all of us to ensure that everyone here feels that love and support.

Second: knowledge and goodness. We stand for the idea that it not enough just to be smart, just to have a head filled with the knowledge of books; we stand for the idea that character is as essential to education as our book-learning is. At the same time, our founding values emphasize that it is also not enough just to be good – that the knowledge that comes from hard work, the hard kind of work you know so well as Andover students, really matters. I take heart today in both aspects of this commitment: that we see it as our job to focus on both mind and morals as we go through this journey together, as students and teachers.

For some people, in your comments and your bearing this morning, I sense a certain despair – a sense of “why bother”? I hope and trust that, as we reflect on this election, that those who feel grief and despair today can turn those feelings over time into a commitment – a clear sense of exactly why to bother – why, exactly, we absolutely must bother with both knowledge and goodness, why all that hard work – on both your skills and your goodness – matters so very much.

Third: youth from every quarter. I want to be very clear that there is a place for everyone at Andover – no matter where you come from, who your parents are, how much money you have. I want to be clear that there is also a place at Andover for you no matter whether you are a conservative or a liberal. Our commitment to youth from every quarter is not partial; our commitment is absolute. This Academy shall be ever equally open to youth from every quarter. Those words are supposed to mean what they say – and we are all called upon, every one of us, to make them come true.

The thing that hurts the most about this election, for many people – and here, I speak for myself, too – is that too much of the rhetoric has been about exclusion, not inclusion; it has been about hate and not about love; it has been about putting some people above others. The conversation has not been about an America that I recognize – a land in which literally every person, by definition, came from another place or from the Native American nations that were on this very land before the European settlers arrived.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: there is absolutely no place for that kind of divisive and hateful rhetoric at Andover. We can disagree about laws and policies and politics – and, in fact, we must. But we cannot embrace the hateful aspects of the campaign we have just witnessed. Hate, in all its forms, is inconsistent with the values of this school, as they were written and as we now interpret them. We are a place where we invite people from all over the world, based solely on their abilities and their promise, to live, work, and play together. There is no student more valued than any other student; there is no adult more valued than any other adult. No election, nothing that could happen in politics can change that fact.

To every student at Andover: you have a place here that you have earned and which you earn every day through your good conduct and your hard work. You have adults here who have chosen to spend our professional lives with you because we believe in you, what you stand for, and what you will go on to do.

I do not want to hear about anyone acting with disrespect toward anyone else based on who they are, their race, where they came from, their faith, their beliefs, or any other reason of this sort. That is not what Andover is about. There is a better way and we must find it. And for those who disagree or act otherwise, we need to talk. You know where to find me in GW.

The very hardest problem at the heart of this election, for me, is the paradox of tolerance. Please forgive me this short foray into political philosophy, but I think you will get what I mean in a moment. At Andover, we teach tolerance. I doubt anyone here would disagree with that – I hope and trust that no one here would disagree with that. It is extremely easy to be a tolerant person when everyone around you is tolerant. It is easy to tolerate the tolerant, if you get what I mean. If we all commit to this principle, things go well. I hope at Andover we can indeed all commit to a deep, abiding sense of tolerance.

The problem with tolerance is when it comes to the intolerant. To the extent that some people in society are intolerant of other people – and we know that to be true – there becomes, all of a sudden, a problem with tolerance. The tolerant are called upon to tolerate the intolerant (who, in turn, are not asked to tolerate anyone). And to some degree, in a democracy, we must – that is part of the deal. We do not just give votes to the tolerant. And it is true that we grow and learn when we tolerate the views of others with whom we disagree.

What I believe is that there must be a point at which the tolerant are allowed to be intolerant of those who are intolerant. Our study of history points to many examples when it was a terrible mistake to tolerate intolerance for too long. This is the paradox of tolerance – and it is much on my mind today. Each one of us must find for ourselves that point. For me, that point is here, where I insist that we value all our students and their well-being equally.

As a school, I believe we must do everything we can to focus on building tolerance and love for one another so we do not find ourselves faced with this very paradox – a true paradox in the sense that it cannot be resolved when it gets to that point. As a leader of this community, I will give a very wide berth to the conversations we need to have about politics and difference. But intolerance of one another is something that we must resist.

Last concept, for now anyway: Finis Origine Pendet. The end depends upon the beginning. I love this concept because it emphasizes how much what happens here, matters to what happens out there, in the broader world. It matters because who you become when you leave Andover and what you do is grounded in who you are and what you do when you are here.

There is one idea that has been puzzling me since I got to Andover that I wanted to toss out to you this morning, on this topic of Finis Origine Pendet. One thing that adults often remark upon is the extent to which young people today are not interested in the political process – that you do not believe in the institutions of government and that you do not aspire to run for office or serve in the military or in the civil service.

I am quick to point out, by the way, what I know from research and from being with all of you: your civic activism is actually at a very high level historically, but you tend to prefer NGOs, social entrepreneurship, and approaches that are outside of the formal government processes.

One aspect of Andover’s history, as I trust you all know, is that we have produced in the past graduates who have gone on to be presidents, senators, representatives, judges, military leaders, and leaders of the civil service. In fact, last night, we all re-elected an Andover graduate, Seth Moulton, to represent this very district in the United States Congress.

I mention all this because I hope that this election, wherever you stood, will make you think about whether a life in politics – or at least active engagement in politics – is worth your time. I believe it is and I hope you will do. In fact, I think the health of our republic, and republics around the world, depends upon your doing so.

Our founding values at Andover are inextricably tied to the founding values of America. In both cases, the words are (mostly) very beautiful and inspiring. In both cases, we have lived up to them only in part. At Andover, I believe we can and will live up to ours, and in so doing, both support one another here, and support the healing of our world. Out of many, we must can and must be one – e Pluribus Unum.

This morning, as we wake up to a divided nation and a world of hurt and anger, I find I am devoted more than ever to the central cause that brought me to Andover: to help to make this residential school an example of a tolerant, loving, diverse, serious, hard-working, supportive, unbreakable community. Andover can be a symbol of unity and healing in a world that feels awfully divided and broken. No matter where we come from, we all have great good fortune in being here at this school, right now. In my view, we have no choice – no choice – but to roll up our sleeves even higher than we did yesterday to make this community, to make Andover, a beacon of hope – a beacon of hope for this country and for the world.  Thank you.

All-School Meeting Introduction: Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld ’96

Quote

[These are my prepared remarks for the introduction to our All School Meeting on the topic of Youth From Every Quarter for Fall, 2016. I did not give these remarks verbatim in the interest of time, but delivered most of them as written.]

ASM Introduction
Youth From Every Quarter, October 5, 2016

Good morning, Andover. I am glad to see you all gathered today. To see all your smiling faces is always a heartwarming sight from up here.

We continue in our sequence of All School Meetings that encourage us to interrogate our founding values as a school. Today’s ASM centers on Youth from Every Quarter. We are fortunate to have a distinguished alumnus from the class of 1996, Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, to be with us as our speaker. Dr. Ehrenfeld, welcome back!

Before I turn the proceedings over to our fabulous Dean of CAMD, Ms. Springer, I thought I would share what I believe Youth from Every Quarter means today, to me. It is worthy of much more time than I have for this introduction, so I will reduce my thoughts to two essential elements: that Youth from Every Quarter is a changing, living idea; and that it is an active, not a passive, idea.

First, I believe that Youth from Every Quarter is a changing, living, idea. I mean that it is not static in its meaning. Yes, the words are still the same; it is, in that sense, a stable statement that can be found in our school’s Constitution. At its core, it was right on: it stated that this Academy, I quote:

“shall be ever equally open to Youth, of requisite qualifications, from every quarter.”

Youth from every quarter meant one thing in 1778 and it means something very different today. Back then, it was a much narrower conception of the “youth” who would be educated here. (It turns out the Constitution also said that all your teachers needed to belong to a particular strand of Christianity – that we should all be strict Calvinists – and I don’t think today we have any strict Calvinists on the faculty. If you meet one, please let me know.)

Today, it means that we strive for true equity and true inclusion. It means that our admissions office not only doesn’t mind if someone comes from a certain background; it means, in fact, that our admissions office seeks students out from different backgrounds. It means that we don’t merely tolerate diversity on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, faith, geography, and types of ability – it means that we seek it out. Plainly, the founders of this Academy were on the right track in 1778, but they didn’t get it exactly right the first time. It said one thing, and it meant another.

The same can be said for another famous document from that same time: our Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1776, which said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, …” These are beautiful words, and they have resonated for hundreds of years. But they did not mean then what they mean today. And that change is a very good thing.

That brings me to the second point: Youth from Every Quarter is not a passive idea; it is an active one. It is not enough merely to attend Andover or to teach at Andover – to be a member of a place that seeks equity and inclusion. It is an active task – an essential task for every one of us as community members, to make this a place that is welcoming, supportive, nurturing, and challenging in equal measure for all our students.

What do I mean by that? I believe it means actively finding ways to connect with people different from you. It means refraining from using language that mocks another person on the basis of their identity or where their family came from – and apologizing if you mess that part up. It means recognizing hateful and harmful speech for what it is, and not hiding behind political smokescreens. It means calling people in to a discussion about diversity, not calling people out.

And it is active because it calls upon you to engage in critical thinking. It calls upon you to recognize injustices in the past and the present and to work to make your community stronger, fairer – more equitable and more inclusive. That is not work just for your teachers; that is work for every student to engage in – equally – to make this community stronger than it is today. I know that some of you at Andover do not feel equally treated and fully included, even today, and we all need to keep working at that.

One thing that is on my mind, in this mode of critical thinking: Why, today, does hateful speech – speech that demeans and divides people – in political discourse seem to attract votes? We can and should call out the speech that is contrary to our school’s founding values, of non sibi, of knowledge and goodness, of youth from every quarter.

But I also want to know: what is going on here in this country? How is it that language that is hateful toward some people — language which puts some people above other people – seems to some to be acceptable, and is working politically in some places? This is not the first election in which hateful speech has animated the discourse – but why today, and why to such a degree? I know I am not alone in wondering and worrying about this problem.

I think the answer has to do with that first point – the idea of change. I think a big part of what is going on, with Youth from Every Quarter, is that we are headed toward a country, and a world, that is more complex and more diverse than ever before. Let me leave you with one fact: In the 1950, this country was 90% white and 10% comprised of people of color. This country will no longer have a white majority by 2042 – that is 25 years from now. I take this change to be good and important – and also a major challenge for us to get Youth from Every Quarter right.

May this Academy, in its founding words, be: ever equally open in terms of who can come here – and ever equally open in our minds, especially to the changes of what Youth from Every Quarter actually means.

It is my pleasure to turn the program over to Ms. LaShawn Springer.

All-School Meeting Introduction: Laci Green

All-School Meeting Opening Remarks, Phillips Academy

September 28, 2016

Good morning, Andover. We gather today, early in the school year, to begin our exploration of our values as a school. You are by now deeply ensconced in your classes, clubs, arts and sports. We are also deeply engaged in the work of what kind of a community we will have this year at Andover – how we will support one another, develop as young people (and as adults for that matter), and treat one another. In that work, I would urge you to be guided by the values of our school.

Today, we take up the theme of goodness and knowledge, in a very particular context. For those who were here last year, you will recall that we began, early in the Fall, with an ASM focused on sex and sexuality. I know that can seem shocking to some ears, but it is true – we are talking about sex in this chapel today, as we start the year, and we believe it to be very important that we do so.

Before I turn things over to those who will introduce Laci Green, our guest today, I want to share with you just a few brief thoughts of my own. For some of you, this discussion of sex and sexuality may seem too early to be talking about it. After all, you have just gotten here and you are still trying to find your way at Andover. I also want to be clear that our discussion of sex and sexuality is not intended as encouragement. We strongly support those who abstain from sexual intimacy at Andover and believe that to be a positive and healthy choice.

At the same time, we are aware that sex does take place in all high schools, and that Andover is no exception. You certainly tell us as much in the State of the Academy Survey and otherwise, and we take your words seriously.

We also take seriously what you tell us about sexual assault on our campus. You tell us that it does happen at Andover, and that it has happened to some of you gathered in this room. You tell us that sexual assault is carried out by your classmates at Andover and also by people you meet off campus. Given what we have all read about surveys on college campuses – the astonishing reports of last year that sometimes a third, and sometimes more, of young women experience sexual assault during colleges – we are heartbroken, we are outraged, and we know we have to do something, here at Andover. It is in this context that we begin today.

Let me make it clear: we cannot and we will not tolerate a rape culture at Andover. As adults, we will take seriously all claims of sexual misconduct that you bring to us. When that happens, we will treat everyone involved with the highest degree of respect and fairness that we can muster.

Andover: make no mistake: this one’s on us. This issue is not just for college campuses – it’s for our campus, and I know that we can together make a difference through the way we conduct ourselves, through the way we lead – with both knowledge and goodness.

It is my pleasure to turn the program over to Dr. Flavia Vidal and Larson Tolo, class of 2018.

All School Meeting Address, May 4, 2016, Phillips Academy

All School Meeting Address (Excerpt)
May 4, 2016
John Palfrey, Phillips Academy

[…]

I was in North Carolina recently, at Duke, and I talked with a recent graduate from the class of 2014. He just loved Andover and told me how much he missed it. I asked him what he missed the most about it. He told me he really missed ASM – he missed coming into Cochran Chapel and having time, with all of his classmates, to reflect. I hope this ASM might have that effect, too, for all of you […].

The message I had in mind today was to celebrate two things at once: diversity, on the one hand, and free expression, on the other. These are both values that we hold dear at Andover and that we hold dear in America, and in many other countries around the world. They are not all that easy to hold at once, sometimes, but it is very important that we try.

When I was in law school, I had two groups of friends. It just worked out this way, but one group of friends was very liberal and the other group of friends was very conservative. One thing I really admired about my law school was that there was a broad range of opinion, both on the faculty and among the student body.

But it was a funny experience. I would have lunch, most days, with my liberal friend group, after, say, Property class. We’d inevitably talk about the cases we were reading – it’s sort of a first-year law student disease, which is that you can’t stop talking about the cases – and at some point, someone would say something like, “I can’t believe what that conservative kid said about the judge’s opinion.” And another person would say, “Yeah, I can’t believe how conservative this place is.” Almost on a daily basis, the lament would be about how conservative the law school was.

Then, in the evening, I’d be hanging out with my study group. This group of students was by and large conservative. The kids were equally smart and equally hard working – they just saw things from a very different angle, through a very different lens. I found studying with them to be electrifying, actually, and a real challenge – in a great, intellectual way. At some point during the study group session, usually in a tiny windowless room in the library, one person would say, “I can’t believe what that liberal kid said about the judge’s opinion.” And another person would say, “Yeah, I can’t believe how liberal this place is.” Almost on a daily basis, the lament would be about how liberal the law school was.

When I first noticed this funny pattern, I thought to myself, “how sad!” Both groups felt somehow not supported in their political views, alienated by an orthodoxy that they perceived within the institution – that it was “not easy” to be liberal, or “not easy” to be conservative.

I don’t know for a fact, because I haven’t asked all 1100 of you, but I would guess that a roughly similar dynamic exists at Andover. I do know that some of you have told me that it is hard to be at Andover if you come from a family that has not gone to boarding school in the past, or from a family that pays a smaller portion of the tuition than another family does. I have heard from some of you that you find it hard to be at Andover and to express the challenges of coming from a particular culture or race or heritage or place on the gender spectrum or sexual orientation, and especially so if your particular background has been marginalized or has historically had less power in American society. I have heard from others of you that it is hard to be a person of faith at Andover, that your fellow students – and even sometimes your teachers – don’t act with respect when you talk about your beliefs. I have heard from some of you that this culture is not supportive of athletes, especially those who are white and male. Others of you have said that if you are a legacy at Andover, people wonder if that’s how you got in – and that you are made to feel less worthy.

I’ve been thinking about this problem for a while, and I’ve come to see this pattern in a different way. Instead of seeing a problem – this place is too conservative or too liberal, too supportive of legacies or too supportive of those who have come to boarding schools more recently, too supportive of athletes or too supportive of artists – I see it as an opportunity. I choose to see it as the glorious promise of diversity and of learning in a liberal arts environment.

This morning, what I’d like to tell you all is that I credit that you are feeling these things. I want to say, for the record, that the entire game-plan for Andover is to have you here together. I want also to say how much I appreciate you in all your diversity, and as individuals. And I want you to be able to share your views in serious, respectful ways that make our community smarter and stronger. I want you to lean in to our diversity and to make it a strength.

I suppose there might be those who look at me on this stage and dismiss what I am saying. Easy, you might think, for you to say. It is easy to have a lot of power and privilege. And it is easy to spout high-minded ideals when it is your people who have, for the entire history of this school and this country, written the rules.

And to a degree, you would have a point. I stand before you clear in the knowledge that I come from a place of privilege: I have ancestors who came on the Mayflower and on the Abigail to America. I have ancestors who were slaveholders and ancestors who were abolitionists. Members of my family have gone to boarding schools for the entire time that there have been boarding schools in America. When I was in high school and in college, I committed myself to competing at athletics at a high level.  There’s absolutely nothing I loved doing more at your age than competing with my teammates for my school – I am proud to be an athlete. As your head of school, I have the microphone, today quite literally, the ability to shape the dialogue and to set the agenda at this school. So yes, it is quite true: I stand before you with the deck stacked in my favor. Put another way: I’m aware that I was born on third base and that I didn’t hit a triple to get there.

But that, I hope and trust, is not the sum total of what you see when you look at me, or at your neighbor beside you in the pews of this chapel. More important, I hope that you see a human being – someone with hopes, fears, dreams, and daily struggles. I hope that you see someone who cares, loves, and respects other people.

And that, Andover, is really what I want to say this morning. I appreciate each one of you. I’m grateful to each one of you for who you are and what you bring to Andover.

I appreciate the activists. There are those who have taken up causes from the right and from the left. There are those who have gotten engaged in this year’s presidential campaign and those who have been inspired by Jane Goodall and Ai-jen Poo. There are those who have sought racial justice and sexual justice and social justice of myriad stripes. Sometimes your activism takes me or the school’s administration as your target. I love that all these things exist on our campus, and I extend my respect to all of you, regardless of your political commitments and beliefs. So long as you are serious and respectful in what you do and how you do it, I celebrate your activism in all its forms.

I appreciate the artists. I appreciate the visual artists and the performing artists. I appreciate those with enormous skill and those who merely apply what little skill they can muster – and, when it comes to the arts, I’m very much in that latter camp, myself. I am inspired by your play with instruments and voice; I am inspired by your acting and dancing, your stage-production and lighting. Our community is vastly richer for your talents and your efforts.

I appreciate the athletes in the room, and that means essentially all of you. One of the great things about Andover is that there are students who undertake athletics for the purpose of staying fit and well. And there are those who are athletes with the goal of winning championships and playing in college and beyond. I am psyched for you when you hit walk-off doubles to win a game in the fizzling rain – whether on the softball field or the baseball field — and I am proud of you when you pull hard but come up short. I love your sportsmanship, your teamwork, and your enthusiasm. Go Big Blue!

I appreciate everyone in this room for your academic strengths – and by that I do mean everyone.

I appreciate all those who commit themselves to a life of non sibi through community engagement – and I hope that will mean everyone, for the rest of your years. Finis origine pendet.

I appreciate those of faith, and those who choose not to express their faith.

I appreciate those who are all of those things, or any number of them.

It doesn’t matter to me whether your family has just come to the United States, or if your forebears came to this country, or if no one in your family is from the USA. It doesn’t matter to me if you hold one passport or two, and whether neither one says “USA” on the front.

My call to you is to appreciate one another. This is diversity. We have it here, in all its many forms. That means acting with tolerance and respect. It means avoiding saying the hurtful things about the backgrounds of other people – and if you do say something hurtful, it means saying you are sorry. While it may be legal to say hurtful things to other people, it is inconsistent with our community values. We can do better than to belittle one another – in any way. That’s what I got from listening to Ai-jen Poo and to Jane Goodall this past month in this chapel – what’s the point of acting other than with love and forgiveness and kindness toward one another?

My call to you is to speak and act with respect to one another, and also to tolerate views that may seem deeply wrong to you. Actually, I’d go one further. I’d urge you to seek out those with views distant from your own and see what you can glean from hearing about them. Sure, you may simply come away convinced that you were right all along.

Nothing good, in human history, has come of societies retreating to homogeneity or to demagoguery. It can be tempting, for all sorts of reasons. But it’s not a good idea. And we, here in this intentional community – we can do better.

I hope that we might agree that we want Andover to be a place where everyone on this campus can strive to achieve their dreams. I want Andover to be a place where everyone can strive to be their best selves. I want Andover to be a place where we support one another as we all pursue our dreams – where we don’t cut one another down, but rather support one another, in our words and in our actions. This is a choice, Andover, and it is a choice that I know you can make.

I want to bring you to your feet, Andover – to encourage you to Rise Up, as Andra Day says in her song – to rise up to achieve your own dreams, like Serena Williams and like the Relay for Life team here on campus a few weeks ago, and to commit to support one another as we all pursue our dreams here at this school.

Thank you.

Introduction of George H.W. Bush at All School Meeting, Phillips Academy

This morning, President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush surprised our student body by joining us for All School Meeting in Cochran Chapel at Phillips Academy.  The All School Meeting featured Mary Kate Cary and the film she produced, “41 on 41,” about the life of President Bush.

Good morning, Andover.

This morning we gather to reflect, as we often do, on Phillips Academy’s motto, non sibi: not for oneself. We have many role models among those who have gone before us at Andover. Some of them have generously presented at All School Meetings, sharing with us in this chapel their stories of what it was about their time at Andover that motivated them to live a life embodying the non sibi credo. Last year Dr. Vanessa Kerry ’95, founder of the non-profit SEED Global Health, encouraged you to consider how you might make a difference. Next month author Julia Alvarez ’67 will talk about how she employs storytelling to ignite awareness and activism for humanitarian causes.

Today, in celebration of non sibi, we welcome Mary Kate Cary who has created a film assembling the voices of 41 people describing an Andover alumnus who has dedicated his life to public service in a remarkable career spanning seven decades, in multiple roles, culminating in serving in our nation’s highest office. That alumnus is George Herbert Walker Bush, Andover class of 1942.

As a White House speechwriter from 1988 to 1992, Mary Kate Cary authored over 100 domestic and international addresses by President Bush. She is a member of the advisory board to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. She has remained in close contact with the President, collaborating with him on book projects, including Speaking of Freedom, a collection of the President’s favorite speeches. Mary Kate is a contributing editor and columnist at US News and World Report and a regular political commentator on National Public Radio. Still a speechwriter, she works with a variety of political and corporate clients and has taught speechwriting at Georgetown, American, and Texas A&M Universities. Mary Kate’s relationship with the President gave her unique insights as the executive producer of the film 41 on 41. The film captures the words of the President’s family and colleagues to portray George Bush’s deep commitment to service and leadership and his generous capacity for friendship and humor.

Before Mary Kate begins her presentation, I’d like to welcome some special guests who have joined us today:

• President Bush’s sister, Nancy Ellis, mother of Alexander Ellis, Andover class of 1967

• Dick Phelps, Andover class of 1942, the President’s close friend and baseball teammate at Yale

• Dick’s wife, Sally Phelps, mother of Andover alumni in the classes of 1973 and 89, and grandmother of Matthew Jacobs ’14

In addition, we have the privilege of welcoming to the chapel this morning one of the 41 storytellers featured in the film. In fact, she is the chief story teller. Please join me in welcoming to the stage of Cochran Chapel, Mrs. Barbara Bush, and her husband, the 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, Andover class of 1942.

Welcome back, President Bush, and thank you, Mrs. Bush, for joining us here today. We are honored by your presence – and by the lifetime of good choices you have made to serve others, in the spirit of non sibi.

George Herbert Walker Bush, you arrived at Andover as a twelve year old boy and graduated six years later as a young man, immediately immersing yourself in service to your country during World War II.

During your Andover years, you demonstrated a commitment to leadership, involved in community service and student government, serving as a proctor and captain of the soccer and baseball teams. You won your first Presidential election here – you served Andover as Senior Class President. You were known as “Poppy” Bush, renowned for your ability to rally others and to encourage your peers to engage in The Big Ideas of the Day. As President of the Society of Inquiry you organized lectures on world affairs and religious topics.

During your senior year, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, you and your schoolmates heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The following June, on your 18th birthday, you deferred your acceptance to Yale and instead were sworn in to the Navy as a Seaman Second Class. The following year you became the nation’s youngest Naval aviator and served with distinction in the Pacific arena, flying 58 combat missions, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery.

After the war, you earned your degree from Yale Phi Beta Kappa, embarked on a career in the petroleum sector, and entered a life of public service in 1966. You have served in Congress as a member of the House of Representatives, from Texas. Other leaders recognized your acumen and people skills, appointed you as Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. You were elected Vice-President in 1981 and, in 1988, became the 41st President of the United States.

Throughout this illustrious career, you remained loyal and close to Andover. You served as a trustee from 1963 – 1979 and then as honorary chair of Campaign Andover, the most successful capital campaign in independent school history when it closed at $208.9M in 2003. In recognition of your public service and global leadership, you received Phillips Academy’s two highest honors: the Claude Moore Fuess Award in 1981 and the Andover Alumni Award of Distinction in 2012.

During your Presidency you offered inspired leadership during an era of great change in the world order: the unification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. You led efforts to improve global wellbeing through the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, to improve environmental wellbeing through significant amendments to the Clean Air Act, and to personal wellbeing through the creation of the American with Disabilities Act.

You consistently encouraged American citizens to inspire and mobilize each other to take action to change the world through “service to neighbor, service to nation.” In your words, ”What government alone can do is limited, but the potential of the American people knows no bounds.” You called your fellow citizens to action as volunteers. Your vision for “a thousand points of light” lives on through the foundation of the same name. You twice joined with former political opponent, now friend, former President Bill Clinton to lead major humanitarian fundraising efforts in response to natural disasters after Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

In 2010 President Obama awarded you the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, citing your life as a “testament that public service is a noble calling. His humility and decency reflects the very best of the American spirit.”

Mr. President, you reflect the very best of Andover’s non sibi spirit. Today we have seven Bush scholars among us. These students were chosen for their outstanding character and leadership potential. Their Andover career is underwritten by a scholarship fund set up by the trustees to “honor and encourage the example George Bush’s life represents – a model of civic commitment, loyalty, and social responsibility embodying the best of both America and Andover.”  We thank you for your example – a life of non sibi – and for the inspiration that you provide to every new generation of Andover students.

All School Meeting Address: Sexuality and Healthy Relationships

The text below is of an All School Meeting address of September 22, 2015.  Warning: I use graphic language below.

Good morning, Andover.

Yes, you did hear right: this morning, we are going to talk about sex in this chapel. I realize that might sound awkward to some of you, but I ask for your close attention in this All School Meeting all the same. What I have to say involves every person here. That includes our faculty, who are with us this morning to underscore the importance of this topic to our community. This issue is universal.

What I am about to say may be more than awkward for some of you; it may be downright upsetting. At the end of my remarks, we will introduce members of the community who are specially trained to talk with you on these matters, and I encourage you to do so.

Before we get to the matter of sexual development and healthy relationships, let’s start by stepping back a bit: Why are you here? Why are we all here? I don’t mean it as an existential question – why are we on this planet – but rather, why did you choose to come to Andover? What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

Most people say, one way or another, that you came to Andover for the “excellence.” That excellence might mean a fabulous learning experience in physics, English, music, or the arts. Maybe you came to Andover to pursue great academics as well as excellence in lacrosse or drama or in playing the flute; maybe seeing Eight Bells in the Addison blew you away on your revisit (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, please go find out before you graduate). These are all good reasons to come to Andover and to be at Andover. I’m proud of what all of us – faculty and students alike – can and do accomplish when it comes to these kinds of excellence.

Today, let’s focus on an equally important form of excellence: how we relate to one another in this community. I mean in particular how you as students relate to one another when you make the decision to have an intimate relationship with another person, whenever that time might come, and whatever that might mean to you.

While I suppose it has not been often that heads of school have talked about sex in this chapel in the history of this school, it is a topic fully in step with our mission as a place of teaching and learning. As you know by now, more or less everything we do is grounded in our founding principles. In this case, the principle in question is the idea of knowledge with goodness. In our Charter, Samuel Phillips and the other founders told us that:

[… A]bove all, it is expected, that the Master’s attention to the disposition of the minds and morals of the youth under his charge, will exceed every other care; well considering that, though goodness without knowledge – as it respects others – is weak and feeble; yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous; and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.

In modern-day terms: “knowledge with goodness” has to do with how you treat one another – how you care for one another.

We often talk about how Andover is the most diverse community in which most of us will ever live. We are proud of that fact and we seek to build upon that diversity all the time. One important skill that we want you to learn is how to get along with one another in an extremely diverse community. We come from different faith traditions and different family backgrounds, among many other forms of difference. Being excellent as a student here means caring, respecting one another, being in partnership with one another – not despite our diversity, but in keeping with it.   This diversity means that you will come to any relationship with potentially very different beliefs about what is morally right.

Let me pause here – on this topic of moral perspective – to address one possible concern about sexual education, lest my message this morning be misconstrued. Some adults worry that more talk about sex with kids means an encouragement to be sexually active sooner than you otherwise would. I don’t believe that any of you would hear me that way, but let me make it plain: regardless of your gender or your age, you have every right to abstain from sexual activity. We, as adults in this community, strongly support that decision. No one is obligated to participate in a hook-up culture; no one is obligated to make a choice about your sexual development that is out of keeping with what you believe is morally right. As you leave this chapel today, I trust that each one of you will feel that we, as adults, are here to support you as you work through what is a especially challenging part of teenage development – including supporting your sound decisions not to engage in intimate relationships during your time here.

Just as we emphasize academic integrity with your pursuits in the classroom and personal integrity with regard to following Blue Book rules, this topic too is about integrity.  We want you to make decisions and engage in activities while you are at PA that honor your integrity—in line with your personal values and ethics. You need to support one another as you make these important choices in your life, whether here at Andover or once you are in college.

Put another way: we do not encourage sexual activity at Andover, but we do acknowledge that some of you choose to engage in sexual intimacy while you are here. It is our job as adults in your life to help you make safe choices and to ensure that you know where to turn for support.

I want to share with you today, in terms as clear as I can make them, our community expectations when it comes to healthy relationships and sexual activity. Some aspects of this topic are clear and obvious; others are a bit more complex.

First, a crystal-clear statement: we cannot and do not tolerate sexual assault of any kind at Andover. If you are worried that what you are engaged in is sexual assault, then stop. If you have experienced something that you wonder was sexual assault, seek help – more on that from Mrs. Elliott shortly.   If you don’t know what I mean when I say we cannot tolerate sexual assault on campus, please come talk to me or any of us up on the stage today.

Also in the category of “clear:” the law in Massachusetts says that you cannot consent to sexual activity if you are under 16 years old. If and when we learn of sexual intimacy between students where one or both student is under 16, we are required to report it to the police and to the state of Massachusetts; we also discuss it with your parents. This requirement is not theoretical. For those who might be wondering: oral sex counts as sexual activity for these purposes. This is not my opinion; this is the law in our state.

Third: consent to any degree of physical intimacy on this campus must take the form of an affirmative “yes.” The Blue Book spells it out clearly: we are a “yes means yes” school. That’s new and that can be awkward. But it is very important. It is a shifting of a burden from one person to say “no” to both people to say “yes.” If you are not sure, at the start or at any point during an intimate encounter, you must ask and you must hear a “yes” from your partner before you continue. If you hear a “no” or see or feel anything that resembles a “no” (or anything less than an enthusiastic, unambiguous “yes”), it’s on you to stop.

There’s a rule of thumb that might help in respect to consent. You no doubt have heard of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have done unto you. Consider instead a Platinum Rule in the context of intimacy: do unto others as they would choose to have done unto them. That said, I’d also urge you not to think of sexual relationships as being about what you do “to” someone else – which makes it sound adversarial – but rather “with” someone else. These are distinctions that can make a big difference in changing a culture.

One point that is more subtle: Gender and sexual orientation are unmistakably a part of any discussion about sexual health, but the conversation should not be thought of as exclusively heteronormative.  OK – there were a lot of big words in that sentence.  Let me unpack.  By that, I mean that a discussion of sex is not only about a dynamic that exists between boys and girls. It is hard to have a conversation about sexual health, and especially about differences in expectations and power dynamics, without talking about differences in gender. I’d urge you, at the same time, not to let stereotypes dominate these conversations. On our campus, we have community members who are boys; we have those who are girls; and we have those who do not self-identify as either or who are in transition. (My PGP is: he/him/his.) And we have a range of sexual orientation at Andover. Every student is learning about their sexuality during this period of life, but not everyone is experiencing the same thing. That diversity is important. We respect everyone equally at Andover.

The bottom line is that everyone has a right to feel safe and respected on this campus – regardless of your age, your gender, your sexual orientation, your moral perspective, your faith. As many of you have pointed out, too many students, here at Andover as elsewhere in the world, have suffered from unwanted sexual encounters. The New York Times reports this morning that 1 in 4 young women have experienced sexual assault at some of our most prestigious colleges. As a community, we shouldn’t stand for that. In fact, we must stand for something very different – respect for one another, support for one another, caring for one another. At this high school, we should all be part of the solution.

What I call upon us today to do – adults and students alike – is to step up. Andover, it’s on us. We need to be courageous in talking about sexual intimacy and sexuality. This dialogue must honor each one of you during your time at Andover and set you on a course of healthy relationships for your entire life – much in the way that our academic excellence at Andover education always has set up students for productive lives of work and service.

Andover, we can do this. I know it’s awkward. We can make our community better and healthier, day by day, Saturday night by Saturday night, relationship by relationship. We owe it to one another to do just that. Everyone has a role in defining this type of excellence at Andover and in building a positive culture of healthy relationships. We can show that we care about one another and respect one another. This kind of learning – this essential kind of character development – is, in fact, why we are all here.

To close this morning, Mrs. Elliott will share with you some thoughts about those people on campus who are special resources on this topic. She will also give you a sense of what you can expect in terms of discussions in your dorms, and in classrooms, in the weeks to come on this topic.

Mrs. Elliott: over to you, and thank you for your very strong leadership on this important topic, building on the work of many others who have been committed to these issues for a long time here at Andover.

All School Meeting Address: Winter Welcome 2014 and Discussions in the Wake of Ferguson

Good morning, Andover!

Over the Thanksgiving break, I wrote to you all an email, asking that you take some time to understand what was happening in Ferguson, Missouri.  A few members of the community — a student and a parent, in particular — wrote me back, respectfully, with deep concerns about what I had written, along with Dean Murphy [our Dean of Students] and LCG [Dean Linda Carter Griffith, our Dean of Community and Multicultural Development].  I wanted to respond to those concerns and also to explain why I think this attention and this discourse are so important.  [The original email is here.]

I asked you to pay attention to what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, not because I want you to think something in particular. In fact, while I do have a point of view on this issue, and I’m happy to share that view with any of you anytime, I very much do not want for 1129 young people to think what I think – what a disaster that would be!  In fact, let’s agree to start from a perspective of valuing intellectual freedom and the importance of being open to hear every voice in our academic community.

I asked you to pay attention for two reasons. One is that, despite the common phrase, we do not live in a “bubble” in Andover. We live in a community that is deeply connected to the world outside our beautiful campus. We live in a world where students are required to go off-campus – whether home or elsewhere – during breaks. We live in a world in which all students have friends and family who live outside of our little world here. And we live in a world that is increasingly complex – more global, more interconnected, more diverse, and moving ever more quickly.

The other reason I asked you to pay attention to what happened in Ferguson is because I think it matters a great deal in an historic sense. It matters to every single one of us – Latino/a, Asian, Black, White, regardless of the race, or races, or ethnicity or ethnicities, that you claim. It matters to each person, perhaps in a different way. But it matters to all of us because it stands for a few important things. It stands for the difficulty we continue to have in talking about race and difference in the world. I know, in what I will say to you today, I will offend one or more of you; or perhaps I will stumble badly over my words.  We must each run that risk — of offending one another, of saying the wrong thing, on the way to the truth and to productive dialogue.  This issue also stands for the very real challenge of effective law enforcement and global security — which we must accomplish with real effectiveness — and to do so in a world in which it is not possible to ignore the inequities between people in our society.

I would not have wanted for the world to be in the position that faced the policeman, Darren Wilson that night. I would not have wanted for the world to be in the position that faced Michael Brown that night — and I know, because of the color of my skin and other factors, that I am highly unlikely ever to be. I would not wish on anyone the job of being on that Grand Jury. My heart breaks for every one of their families and friends. Ditto for what happened in Staten Island, in the death of Eric Garner. Ditto for hundreds, if not thousands, of similar cases in recent years. This is hard, and this is heart-breaking. These events happen all too often in this country and in countries around the world.

We need to be better – and it starts here, in this august high school. We need to do better – and we can. We can prove that we can be empathetic toward one another. We can prove that such a diverse community can work, that we can listen and learn from one another, and that we can work toward a more just and sustainable world.

More broadly, these matters speak to more than race. These matters call the question: What does it mean to be a citizen in a republic? What it means to me is that you must have a point of view. There is a cost of freedom; there is a cost to having a say in who governs and how they do it. That cost is that you must engage. You must learn. You must listen. You must come to have a point of view on issues that matter; we cannot govern ourselves if we do not. And you must act upon it. You have no choice.  That might mean that you start a new journal, as some of your colleagues have recently done, on matters of fiscal policy; it might mean that you organize a forum and a candlelight vigil; it might mean that you put yourself into the public arena with a point of view on something else that matters to you.  But to make democracy work, you must find your path toward being a true citizen.

It may be that one of us in this room will be in the position of Darren Wilson one day; maybe one of us will be in Michael Brown’s shoes; in America, we will all be on that Grand Jury; we will all be their friends and family. Not in exactly the same way, and – we pray – not with the same outcome. But when we sign up for life in a republic, we sign up to do the work of being a citizen — to being on that jury, to making those hard decisions, to figuring out how we can have effective law enforcement and global security in a way that is consonant with the Constitution and with international norms of human rights. That work is hard; it matters; and it is all of our work.

I could not be more proud to live in this country; I could not be more proud to be an American.  I could not be more proud to live and work at Andover; I could not be more proud to be your head of school.  Neither America nor Andover is perfect. Neither one is completely exceptional. But on their best days, they are both completely wonderful.  We can and must make both of them better – and with them, the world at large. Andover, it starts here – it starts with each of us and with our community.  We can show that democracy works in the context of free, open, orderly discussion on topics that matter — whether they relate to what is right in front of us or what is occurring in the world at large.

I will end with a quote that I love.  I know that there are valid critiques of this quote, but I love it – for its spirit and for what it calls on each of us to do. It is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States. He almost certainly did not have in mind as inclusive a community as I do today, but he got the call to engaged citizenship just right.  Where I say “man”, you can choose to hear “person.”  Otherwise, please just listen to it for the spirit and the challenge it presents:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

All School Meeting dismissed.

Remarks for Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration 2014 at Andover

I am glad to see you all back here, safe and sound, in Cochran Chapel so that we can look ahead, look to the kind of community that we want to build.  We come together today to celebrate both community and diversity, the pillars of what sets Phillips Academy apart – a school proudly built of youth and faculty from every quarter, a student body that comes from dozens of countries and nearly every state in America, regardless of anyone’s ability to pay tuition.  I am deeply grateful to our colleagues in CAMD, especially Linda Carter Griffith, and all those student moderators and organizers, for their leadership and hard work to make today possible.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is one of the things that Andover does extremely well.  I love the idea that we don’t take the day “off” — though we don’t hold regular classes and practices — but we rather take the day “on,” to explore what Dr. King’s legacy means to us today in this community and more broadly.  We are especially fortunate to have Maria Hinojosa — Emmy-award-winning NPR journalist — here with us as our keynote speaker this morning, to lead us and to help us think about the importance of voice and narrative.

Often, when we at Andover talk about diversity and when we celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy, we talk about our commitment, enshrined in the school’s constitution of 1778, to educate “Youth from Every Quarter.”  That term has long been our guide, and is alive and well.  We are deep into this year’s admissions season, as our good friends and colleagues on Team Shuman and faculty readers are sifting through another extraordinary group of applicants, those who wish to be a part of Andover’s future.  This weekend, we were blessed with 1,200 guests — young people and their families from every background who are considering joining our community — for the Day at Andover.

Today, though, I wanted to emphasize another of our founding phrases – the idea of Knowledge with Goodness.  You will recall that our Constitution tells us that Knowledge without Goodness is dangerous.  As the Phillips Academy Constitution says, when Goodness and Knowledge are united, they “form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.”  I take this phrase to mean that it is not enough for us merely to teach you the tools that you will need to thrive in a 21st century.  Surely we need to teach these things – surely you ought to master core academic disciplines.  You need to learn critical thinking, how to work in teams, and how to be creative.  But you must also learn to combine this knowledge with goodness.

What, you might ask, does Knowledge with Goodness have to do with Martin Luther King Day, or with community and diversity?  To my mind, it has everything to do with this day of celebration and reflection.  Today, we ask ourselves what it means to be an individual in a community.  It has to do with how we act at Andover and who we want to be.  It has everything to do with character.

What does it mean to have Goodness along with all this Knowledge that you are acquiring here at Andover?  Goodness is a character trait.  To me, this goodness is, at its core, about how we relate to one another.  It is how we use our gifts both for ourselves and for others.  We see this goodness, this character, all around us.

In the last week, I found this goodness, this strength of character, in the speech that Meera gave about her homeland, Syria, rocked with war and torn by the geopolitics of our age.  I found this goodness in the performances of all those students who created a stunning production of Dido and Aeneas from scratch: the six student instrumentalists; the voices of Fidelio and the soloists, Caroline and Adam and their friends; the graceful movement of the dance team and the Graham and Emily in their starring turns.  I found this goodness in the dedication of the performance to a teacher, friend, and faculty spouse whose passing we mourn together.  I found this goodness in the way that our fans cheered our boys hockey team to an amazing comeback against St. Sebastian’s – down 4-2 with two minutes left, they tied the game and then won in overtime, their friends pounding on the plexiglass with every dramatic goal, ending at 5-4.  Ditto for the cheering and dancing led by Varsity SLAM, leading on the Girls’ Varsity Basketball in their come from behind win on Saturday.  I found this goodness in the stacks of the OWHL, where a senior was walking another student through some science homework that was far beyond my own comprehension.  I read it again in a senior’s email to me (Samantha) asking me to say “happy birthday” to her roommate (Emilia).  Happy birthday, Emilia!

I see this goodness in classrooms that I visit across the campus.  To embrace diversity and difference is not to accept lower standards.  In our classrooms, we embrace the strength and necessity of difference in our increasingly complex, interconnected world.  We see this strength and excellence in page after page of Out of the Blue, the book that tells the story of today’s Andover better than any other text we have.

Most of all, I find this goodness all around us at Andover as I see your smiling faces on the pathways, making your way from class to sports to activities and back to your dorms and homes, making your mark on this school and this community.

Today, at Andover, we refuse to look away from the challenges of living in a diverse community, in a diverse world.  No matter who you are, you may feel uncomfortable in talking about diversity.  It is a crucial form of knowledge with goodness to be able to express your views about diversity – to tell your own, beautiful story and to struggle with it along with your peers and your teachers.

As you read Out of the Blue, you may find a piece of yourself in a particular essay or poem. You might be the writer who asked why girls are not allowed to swear the same way that boys can.  You might be the boy who identified with Hamlet as he struggled with coming out as a gay male.  You might be the gentile who goes to a camp for Jewish kids or you might be the Jewish student who asks whether your own community takes enough action these days.  You might be the student from a “small, infamous town” who wrote, “People are always surprised when they see how hard I work in all aspects of my life.”  You might be the student who explained to all of us what it means to be a student at Andover who comes from an Asian family.

I want to reply to an Out of the Blue author, who wrote an amazingly powerful statement, which also included a question.  You wrote: “It’s important to have diversity.  40% students of color.  Is that why I’m here?  For diversity?  To help some rich kids cross ‘ racial barriers’ they created?”  My response is both “yes” and “no.”  Yes, you are here for diversity, but you are not alone in being here for diversity.  We are all here for diversity, whether yours will be the first generation in your family to go to college or whether your family has been attending Andover since it was founded.  That’s why we are all here and we all have to grapple with it.  As a white male of privilege, I know that I struggle with what my own identity means – especially in this role as Head of School.

The bottom line is that we all come to Andover to live, learn, and work together as an intentionally diverse community – for many of us, the most diverse community we will ever live in.  We are not perfect; no one of us is perfect; we are all a work in progress, individually and collectively.  As our former Associate Head of School, Rebecca Sykes, wrote in her essay in Out of the Blue, the point is not that we are great at diversity at Andover; it is that “we do not shy away from the hard conversations” about race and other topics that can either divide us or join us together as a community.

I am struck, as I read back through our Constitution, by how well the ideals of this school hang together, 235 years later.  There is profound beauty in how these founding principles intersect.  We are blessed with ideals that support one another.  Non sibi means that we think not just of ourselves – which is inevitable – but of others.  Knowledge with Goodness means that we choose to apply our hard-earned knowledge and skills in pursuit of not just our self-interest, but the community interest.  Youth from Every Quarter means that we draw strength from the diversity of perspective, race, gender, sexuality, class, and religion in our community.   Excellence in academics, athletics, and arts means not the pursuit of a single truth but accomplishment across a vast range of things that you come to master during your time at Andover.  Excellence means accomplishment and goodness in a diverse community.

I’ll close today with one of my favorite passages.  I urge you, by the way, to read Out of the Blue cover to cover.   On p. 211, one person concluded an essay with these words: “Day by day, I think I am doing better and better and I love Andover more and more.  I have learned so much from people around me.  Andover is a place where people always love you back if you love them.  Over time, I felt very much part of the community.  I am grateful that I finally blend in and have such great teachers and friends.  My heart is full of happiness right now, because I have a lot to treasure.  My mom says when people grow up, they do not simply receive more happiness; they learn how to find it.  I think I have found my happiness at Andover, and I am looking for more.”  I don’t know whose voice that is, but whoever you are, I’m grateful to you.  I send you my love for what you wrote.

I wish everyone a wonderful Martin Luther King Jr. day for 2014, here at Andover.  Thank you.