Dear St. Albans Families:
So many times this spring I have wished we could be together. I feel this now, more urgently than ever before.
This week is one of celebration, from C Form recognition days to Upper School Prize Day and the conferral of high school degrees to the Class of 2020.
But the past week has been one of the most challenging in memory. As we reach the end of the school year, after a spring of unprecedented disruption, our nation passed the grim milestone of 100,000 Covid-19 fatalities, striking hardest at our communities of color. We learned of the racist attack on Christian Cooper in Central Park, and witnessed the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, just as earlier this year we were horrified to learn of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The protests that have followed have been a painful reminder of the enduring struggles and divisions in our nation. We share in the grief and sorrow of these events.
All of us are diminished when a fellow human being does not receive the respect and dignity he deserves, but I recognize that the events of the past week have had an especially profound impact on our African American students, families, alumni, faculty, and staff, whose connection to these events is especially painful and personal. We stand with them at this moment, in empathy, love, humility, and affirmation of our common humanity.
I know that words can feel hollow against the backdrop of such events and their disturbing persistence in our society. What matters in the end is less what we say but what we are prepared to do in the way of healing and reconciliation. As a school with a moral and spiritual mission, we are called to lift those who have suffered into our collective embrace, while continuing the sacred work of ensuring that every boy is known and loved. I have spoken often since my arrival at St. Albans of creating a “moral” rather than a “tribal” conception of brotherhood, grounded in care, courage, compassion, and conscience. Never have these ideals – and the work we are called to do by our mission – been more important.
I’ve thought often in the past week of something the historian David Blight said in his address to the Upper School community in January, when he spoke of Frederick Douglass “converting memory into literature into wisdom into pain into the power of words.” Especially at a time when we are physically separated from one another and the sacred, healing spaces of our school, the words we summon matter profoundly. While we are apart, it is hard to know how to begin a conversation. But we will – virtually for now, and in person when we are able to be together again on campus.
We will celebrate our students in the week ahead. At the same time, we will acknowledge the suffering and injustice in our community and our nation. And we will look forward to gathering together again, whether in times of joy or sorrow, to find ways to move forward.
My heart goes out to all of you, but especially to the members of our community who are most affected by the tragic events of the past week.
I am thinking of all of you, standing by you, and remain hopeful that we will find, in the spiritual resources of our community and the wellsprings of our common humanity, the path to a more just and peaceful future.
I leave you with these words from The Book of Common Prayer:
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen