Have you noticed that we are being forced into a world filled with “likes” and “don’t likes?” I fear that social media is forcing us to lose our sense of nuance, our tolerance for ambiguity, and our willingness to live fully in the present without the need for a photo opportunity.
I may be in the process of becoming a curmudgeon so I will stop there and say that I found it refreshing when the United States’ top Olympic triathlete, Joe Malloy, visited the school last week to talk about his career in endurance sports. A student asked Mr. Malloy which of the three sports in the triathlon he liked the most. He had grown up as a swimmer so I fully expected him to relay that swimming was, in fact, his favorite of the three events. Instead, Malloy explained that focusing on a favorite would distract him from experiencing each of the different events in their own special way. He never wants to think that he is training for or racing in his least favorite stage, he simply wants to live in that moment and enjoy it. I found his message to be a wonderful antidote to the pressure placed on our students to live curated lives filled with “likes.”
I also loved Malloy’s theory of competition. He explained that the Latin root of he word competition, which is competere, means to meet or come together. Malloy explained how competition in triathlons helped him travel the world and connect with other people. As a former, has been (or never was), endurance athlete myself, I value how sports, when conducted properly, help bring out the very best in us both physically and in how we react with others. My best friends have often been the people who were trying to finish ahead of me in a race. I was thrilled that Malloy explained his own philosophy and related it to the ancient roots of competition.
Now that the senior presentations have been completed I have been working with others to bring adults to the stage to speak to our students during Morning Meeting. Last week, Alumni and Development team member Eric Russell spoke over the course of two days about his personal roots in Africa. He recently had his DNA tested and received a report of where his family on his father’s side had come from hundreds of years ago. He challenged us to look beyond the dreaded middle passage when thinking about the heritage of African Americans. He showed how his family came from the area around Mali and even had ties to the Middle East. The students loved the talk and discussions continued this week as students raised more questions about our collective past.
For our third speaker of the week, I asked our architect on the Shonk Recital Hall expansion and new dormitory, Susan Phillips-Hungerford to speak to the school both about these projects and her profession. Phillips-Hungerford started out her talk by sharing some slides of famous architects before talking about how she approaches design challenges as an architect. She introduced the term parti to our vocabulary by explaining that a parti is the central theme of a design. As an example she showed a slide of her design for our new dormitory beneath the ski slope and explained how the three roof peaks were meant to be the parti by referencing the Pack Monadnock mountain range the dormitory will face to the east. While the students had many great questions, I could tell that they really wanted to know who would be living in the new dormitory next year!
I am currently travelling in Denver, Colorado where Dean of Enrollment Jill Hutchins and I are meeting with educational consultants from around the world as they meet in one of their annual conferences. I am excited to return to campus for prom night on Friday!