Opening of School Remarks from US Director Lowell Libby

Greetings, and welcome back from your soggy week. I heard from one trip leader after another, Waynflete teachers, AMC and Chewonki leaders, everyone with whom you came in contact how awesome you all were, despite the weather. By rising to the challenge, you have beautifully illustrated a key lesson in life, which is that the quality of an experience is largely dependent on how you choose to show up for it. You all chose well last week.

As we start the school year together, I have been thinking about an age old debate on the purpose of a formal education. Should our focus as educators be on preparing you to live in the world as it exists, or should we focus on helping you to be change agents, shaping the world into something better.

At Waynflete we have always tried to do both. We want to prepare you for success in college and the fast changing world you will encounter thereafter, but we also want to prepare you to be agents of change.

That is why your teachers emphasize thinking critically and creatively in every class as well as mastering content. We want you to be thinkers.

That is why we support you in doing community service. We strive to cultivate an ethic of caring participation in the world. We want you to be doers.

That is why we work at offering you interesting classes and give you as much choice as possible over what you study. We want you to be engaged learners and know how to take charge of your own education.

That is why we engage you in difficult conversations about pressing social issues. We want you to be aware of what is going on around you and give you opportunities to practice articulating your own ideas and experiences and learning from those of your teachers and peers.

That is why we don’t have bells and why I wait for your attention at assembly rather than yell for it. We want you to pay attention and be ready to do what needs to be done.

That is why we put so much trust in you and expect you live up to it. The world needs responsible, aware, and self-governing citizens.

It’s really good that we focus as a school on both preparing you to thrive in a fast changing world and to be agents of change because there is a lot about our world that needs changing. In fact, improving the world was on the mind of our head of school, Geoff Wagg, when the faculty gathered two weeks ago in this room for the first faculty meeting of the year. He started the meeting by reflecting on the ugly events this summer that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, events that showcased a deep seated bigotry of the worst kind and a frightening animosity that ultimately spilled into violence.

After reflecting on the events at Charlottesville, Geoff played a video for the faculty that I would like to share with you as well. It is an illustrated version of American poet laureate Maya Angelou, whose picture is projected behind me, reading her poem “Human Family.”

You might remember this poem from an Apple ad during the Olympics last summer. Despite the commercialization of her message, I think Maya Angelou’s voice is one to which we should be listening at a time when Charlottesville can and did happen. Her poem expresses a core value around which healthy communities thrive.

As we start a new school year, we won’t have much of an opportunity to affect what happens going forward in Charlottesville, but we do have complete control over what kind of a community we create together at Waynflete. If you show up everyday and do your part in creating the kind of community in which we all want to live, you will develop a habit and a mindset that you will eventually bring with you into the world beyond Waynflete. As you do that, you will automatically become the agents for positive change that the world so desperately needs and that I know you all can be.

I look forward to our year together. Thank you for listening. Advising in next.

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