The Country School community took time this week to reflect upon the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the enduring themes of his life’s work and the courage it takes to envision the way things could be.
Earlier in the week, hallway bulletin boards in the Lower, Middle and Upper School buildings were transformed into a collection of such visions, jotted down by students, faculty and staff on small pieces of paper which were then posted on the walls. Ranging in scope from “Everyone has a good friend” and “People are treated fairly” to “No terrorism,” the exercise provided an opportunity for all to think about their own commitments to making the world a more just and equitable place.
During an assembly held Thursday, the older students gathered to listen to a selection of these reflections, shared by teachers Abby Cali and Hannah Liu and students Ben Balsley, Ram Perez, Annie Harrigan, Ari Lerner, Tanvi DebNath and Audrey Magnusen. Ninth grade Assembly Committee members Dillon Mims, Daly Baker, Will Johnson and Tyler Galante, emceed the event, providing an overview of Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech and introducing the speakers.
“One of the things Dr. King said was, ‘Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education,’” said Middle School Spanish Teacher Abby Cali in her remarks. “I try to practice this daily in my classroom. I try to not only give you the Spanish grammar and vocabulary, but I also teach you how to be a better person in this world.”
“I think about all the different activists with extraordinary vision who rose up to the challenge of fighting injustice,” said Upper School Latin Teacher Hannah Liu. “I think about Yuji Ichioka, the founder of the Asian American movement, who fought for fair treatment of Asian kids in schools, as he brought together many different people to work toward a better tomorrow.”
“It’s hard to make people feel safe or happy,” said seventh grader Ari Lerner to those assembled. “But look at Dr. King, he convinced people from all races to march with him in Washington D.C. and make a stand for his loved ones and his friends and even people he doesn’t know. If one man can do this, why can’t we as a giant community?”
“When I hear about Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech, I think of his dreams for our country regarding racial equality,” said ninth grader Audrey Magnusen. “I reflect on the progress we have made as a country since his death. We have had an African American president, something I think he would be very proud of, however, we still struggle with shootings involving black people as victims, and a lack of economic equality.”
“In school, or on a team, or in any group that I am included in, equality is my standard,” said eighth grader Ram Perez. “I believe we all have the responsibility of making this world a place where people of all backgrounds and identities won’t live in fear of discrimination.”
The Lower School also celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with an assembly, including a group recitation of Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech, as well as student musical performances and reflections. Students who participated in the group recitation included Thomas Blouin, Kaitlyn Buda, Charlie Cahill, Martin Flanagan, Oscar Knowles, Zoe Malkoun, Connor Mallin, Mateo Mendoza-Silva, Matt Silver, Michaela Springer, Nicholas Stern, Keeley Strine and Daisy Winn.
Director of Diversity and Inclusion Kisha Palmer remarked in a letter to the school community: “As I reflect on the enduring messages of Dr. King’s work and leadership in the American Civil Rights Movement, I consider the courage it takes to hold a dream. I consider the courage it takes to endeavor to step closer to a vision of the way things could be, instead of being defeated by the reality of what is not.”