Dear Gilman Family,
In Friday’s final Upper School assembly of the year, held in a virtual webinar format, both Head of Upper School Rob Heubeck and I (Rob very eloquently) sent the boys off for the summer by challenging them to become the next great problem solvers. They were words of encouragement rooted in deep discouragement. COVID-19 is perhaps the newest global threat to overcome, but it by no means is the only one. Climate change, geopolitical tension, economic despair and disparity all predate the current pandemic and, disturbingly, they will surely continue to plague our world long after we have developed a vaccine for the virus. As Rob put it, we need our students to fix what our generation has clearly not been able to do, at least to date.
More pointedly, Rob spoke of the hateful, horrid mistreatment of people because of (to name a few) their sexuality, their national origin, the religion they practice, or the color of their skin. Both of us called specific attention to this last one—the color of their skin—as, yet again, our nation confronts images and accounts of the unfair and brutal treatment of Black men and women in our communities. These stories and pictures have become all too familiar, and they should hit home, because they represent Black members of our own Gilman community—our students and teachers, classmates and peers, teammates and coaches, friends and colleagues, children and parents. These are people in our own community whose value is questioned and whose safety is threatened. To the Black members of our community: you are part of us, and your lives matter.
These stories and images represent a problem that we must solve. To that end, I am writing to ask all of us to join together to stand against racism, discrimination, and hate and for humanity, peace, and justice. In keeping with our mission to produce men of character and integrity, I am asking us all to affirm the health, safety, and value of all members of our Gilman community—on campus and beyond, no matter their orientation, religion, or race.
If deep-seated racism—or any other form of hate-based action—is going to be eradicated, it will be a collective effort. A group problem demands a collective solution. We can take a step toward this solution by coming together to talk about these important challenges facing us. In conjunction with area schools, we invite you to a community conversation about racism and the struggle for social justice on Wednesday, June 3 from 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for Zoom information.
Additionally, please see the following resources that might help guide your own discussions about race at home:
- How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism
- HBR: How racism harms children
- Talking to Children about Racial Bias
I hope you find them to be useful. Please know that our counselors and diversity practitioners are here to support your children and you as we try to make sense of these senseless acts.
During our Opening Convocation at the beginning of the year, I spoke of the Apollo 11 lunar mission and the universal sense of accomplishment that the astronauts’ successful trip to the moon engendered around the world fifty years ago. The success of these three men was everyone’s victory. It was a beautiful, uplifting moment for mankind and illustrated the power of human connection beyond the self. If our victories might be shared, so must our failures.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has altered much of daily life, the world continues to spin. Let us not lose sight of all that is going on around us and within our communities. Human history is full of examples of how smoothly and harmoniously the world can spin, and it continues to provide us with examples of a society’s frictions and wobbles. The problems are big and complex, but if we embrace the role of problem solvers, harmony just might have the final say.
Henry P. A. Smyth, Headmaster
Johnnie L. Foreman, Director of Community, Inclusion, and Equity