On Equity, Inclusion, and the Inauguration

Clair Ward
My tenure as a head of school can be counted by presidential elections. My first fall as a head was 2008, when this country elected its first Black president. Since that time, I have been a school leader for three subsequent elections; each time, my school community looked to me to set the tone for discourse blurring partisan lines and focusing on our democratic process and moral obligation as a nation. 

This past weekend, I thought deeply about the overlap of the inauguration with the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. The day we honor this pillar of civil rights mobilization always overlaps with inaugurations. While this year's overlap comes after a year of civil unrest around the empowerment of white supremacy and widespread systems of racism and marginalization, remembering Dr. King in any inauguration year feels like he continues to serve as our nation's conscience while we usher in new (or renewed) leadership. It is a moment in time when we can ask ourselves if we have done enough, if we got it right, if every voice was heard, or if we are sure that every voice weighs the same as the others.

As a school, we must raise children to be activists in ways that allow them to express themselves, but not to the point of silencing the voices and rights of others. We must be sure that while they look up to the heroes who came before them, they understand that people like Dr. King are epic in their example for mobilizing and motivating others. It is important that children see that it is as possible for them as it was for Dr. King, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mahatma Gandhi, or Greta Thunberg. In a recent New York Times opinion piece called "The Youthful Movement That Made Martin Luther King Jr.," author Rich Benjamin writes: "As we commemorate Dr. King, we need to toss the 'great man' concept of leadership, our knee-jerk longing to worship epic individuals and not citizen action. Contrary to the mythology of most King celebrations, Dr. King's true contribution wasn't as a single messiah of civil rights, but as a formidable organizer of people and causes. To peddle the great Moses version of Dr. King's legacy is to betray the greatness of his extraordinary deeds, whose lessons and necessity are more urgent than ever." Monday has come and gone, but our obligation to honor King's legacy is upon us as we guide children through one of the most contentious inaugurations of my career as a head, never mind our history as a nation.

It is with great pride that I walk with each of you guided by both our Community Code and our Equity & Inclusion CommitmentI encourage you to read this update summarizing the tangible steps that Shore is now taking to build institutional systems that transcend any one employee or position in order to make our school's commitment to equity and inclusion pervasive and lasting. There is a long road ahead of us, and this work will be bumpy and messy at times. But watching the national discourse in the last handful of years, and knowing that our community affirmed the need for urgent action in our most recent strategic plan, we must commit ourselves to this journey. On behalf of our community, I want to invite you to walk with us. Thank you to those of you who have been doing this work at Shore before me. It is my privilege to stand on your shoulders as we head off into the future
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