Dear Vistamar Families:
Morning Meeting at Vistamar is an important, fundamental part of the life of this amazing school. As Head of School, I have the honor of delivering the first and the last morning meeting addresses each year. Last Tuesday was our first morning meeting. Below you’ll find the text of my first morning meeting address to students, staff, and faculty.
How does a diverse community become a just community?
I want to talk today, during our first morning meeting together, about three ways of being that I hope will sustain me (and us) throughout the upcoming year as we build community together, get to know each other and begin to imagine all we can accomplish together.
- The first is to cultivate the desire to care about each other and to act with peaceful intention while understanding our impact on others.
- The second is to learn from each other, and to be willing to listen to perspectives that aren’t your own.
- The third is to reflect and to see ourselves as honestly as possible so that we might learn from our mistakes and become better.
We have a shared humanity - we are all in this together, whatever ‘this’ is. We have a duty to care for each other enough to uphold norms and behaviors that we can all agree to in order that each member of our community can participate fully in their lives here at school and beyond - that every voice has equal value. Because we are a diverse group of individuals all with our own experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, hopes, and fears, we have an obligation to listen to each other and learn from each other so that we might understand how someone else’s experience is different from our own. If we are to truly care for each other, we need to speak up when we see someone being treated disrespectfully; to be an ally, not a bystander. We must participate in our lives with the intention to understand others, to be compassionate, and ultimately to reach out our hand and to help.
Each one of us has something unique and meaningful to bring to our school, to each other here today, and to the world beyond these walls. Our contract with each other is rooted in the principle that if we keep an open mind and an open heart, we will learn about each other so that we create space for all voices and experiences to fully participate and flourish here. When we’re able to do this well, our own lives expand and the horizon of possibility expands. When we know each other and are open to experiences that aren’t like your own, that’s the baseline for a safe, inclusive, aspirational community - it’s the kind of place I want to be, and it’s an expectation here at Vistamar. This year more than any year must be a year devoted to building a just community. We need to care enough about each other to listen and learn so that we may act with an eye toward impact, well beyond intention. Because it’s not enough just to know we mean well.
We all know that we make mistakes, and we need to reflect honestly with an intention to grow. The willingness to be open enough to think about what we say and how we act will build a world here that has opportunities for each and every one of us. But we have to be honest about who we are, right now, and to be willing to change some of those things that get in the way of us becoming better. And while we may share a common human fallibility, we also share a common human desire to forgive and to believe in each other enough to give the benefit of the doubt - that we all deserve the grace that accompanies the moment of learning and insight when we fall down and when we haven’t quite done it right. And when harm is done, we need to acknowledge it and to repair it. This is critical as we grow and evolve and deepen our values, and it begins with each and every one of us here.
And this brings us to our essential question this year: How does a diverse community become a just community?
We are a school whose commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is foundational. And we are a school that learns from its successes and its missteps. We are not a perfect community, but we are a committed community that cares enough about getting it right and getting better and growing that we take steps to get there together. We strive here at Vistamar to bring out the best in ourselves so that we can create a better life for each other and so that by our example we can shine the light into our communities and among our friends and families to provide hope and inspiration for them.
It takes all of us, looking inward, acting with purpose, and with commitment to make a change worth making. The moment that we find ourselves today in is a moment of real consequence. There aren’t many other times in history, at least in my lifetime, where our values and our common humanity have been so critically important in the way we might become a better community. This is a real crossroads moment when we have a big opportunity to change things for the better.
How we respond to racial injustice, educational inequity, and the way we uncover and understand things that have been erased or ignored throughout history has never been more important than it is right now. How we ‘do’ school and how we participate and engage in what and how we’re going to learn this year is part of that work, and this year, specifically, will shape your lives for decades to come. No doubt about it. This is one of those moments that you’ll tell your loved ones about when you’re old.
Sometimes we tell ourselves stories to make us feel better and sometimes the stories we tell ourselves leave out some of the harder things to hear, because it hurts. The story we tell ourselves about ourselves is the story of who we want to become. And when we are honest and open and trusting and committed to becoming better, each of us, individually, we will be able to name those things in us that need to change so that we can all have the space to become better, more enlightened, more connected. More responsible to take the steps necessary to make a difference.
Dr. Cornell West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard Divinity School, and one of the most inspiring speakers I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing in person, wrote that “Justice is what love looks like in public”. The highest expression of our love for one another in the public sphere - how we treat each other and how we understand each other and how we care for each other - is ultimately a community that supports each of its members equitably, where each person can expect to be treated fairly and to be given the same opportunity to pursue a life of meaning, purpose and service. That’s what we can build here at Vistamar if we choose to.
I commit to you today that I will do my best to be an example of those values that we need to become a better school and to make a better, more equitable and just world, and I hope you’ll make the same commitment.
Head of School