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Who are We Going to Choose to be in the Face of the Day?

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Miss Porter’s School

A Message from the Head of School, as shared at today’s all-school meeting

As I share my comments today, which are part head of school comments and part Journey Talk, I ask you to try to suspend judgment and instead commit to a stance of discernment. As a Quaker, I know that we find the truth in being present for each other, listening, truly listening to each other and from there, ways open and new paths are forged. We are forced to create new paths at the conclusion of each election, but this election has been more polarizing than any in our history and thus, the need to listen, to learn and to act is even more essential.

Who are we going to choose to be in the face of the day?

I was asked over and over again yesterday if I had two separate talks to give today, the victory speech and the defeat speech, and the answer is no. I knew that my emotions would be different depending on the outcome of the election, but my message would remain the same.

The electoral process is in place to give all people the ability to have a voice, to exercise their personal power. It is a gift to live in a democracy and that has not changed. We all need to be prepared to use our personal power to do what is right and just. This is true in the face of both victory and defeat.  

We all need to take the high road. We can only control our own behavior and we are responsible for both our actions and our words. That has not changed. Each day comes anew with the opportunity to choose who you want to be and what you want to believe. Embrace this.

Now, to the emotions. Emotions are always the most intense when they surround moments that are particularly meaningful. It is normal and healthy, and I would argue, desirable, to have a range of emotions and to feel things intensely.  

Regardless of your party affiliation, the fact that this election provided the first time in the history of our nation that we had the possibility of electing a woman to be president was historic. Emotions that come with the reality that this milestone has not been achieved can feel very personal to women. As an ambitious group of women, it is not a surprise that many of us feel devastated.

However, we do make a choice about how to channel our emotions. How they inform our relationships with others, how they inform our behavior, and how they inform our belief systems. I saw the nomination of a female for president as a sign that our hard work on behalf of women was taking root. I chose to lead this school because I believe that girls are disadvantaged compared to their male peers. I have worked tirelessly to create opportunities for women because I believe that the world will be a better place if we are able to fully leverage the gifts of all people, not just some. I worry that not all people truly have a voice and I know that, for many people, there are barriers with respect to exercising personal power because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status and other identity markers. This is not just and it simply does not lead to the best outcomes for individuals or our world.

What does the future hold? The gift of a democracy is that once the election is over, the process begins again. I ask you to channel your emotions and use your energy to invest in what is just and right, to shape a changing world. I would ask the same of you regardless of which candidate won. The work remains and the number of hours in the day that we have to spend on doing the work is equal for all, regardless of your party affiliation. Use your time wisely.

I knew that I would close with the same quote regardless of the outcome of the election. It is from Eleanor Roosevelt and it is on my high school yearbook page. It is the quote that inspired me when I was your age and it is equally as inspiring to me as I stand before you today. It says, “You must have the courage to look fear in the face and do the things you think you cannot do.”

Fear has been a pervasive emotion in this election cycle and it persists this morning. We spent most of our time discussing how afraid we would be if the other candidate won, knowing full well that only one candidate would win.  

It is like the group think that can take over when you are preparing for exams…letting the emotions about an impending disaster, failing your exams, sap all of your time and energy. We are at risk of giving up our personal power to fear.

If we instead prepare for the future, fully engage in the process–be it studying for an exam or, in this case, engaging in the political process–we take control of our own destiny. I implore you to continue to control what only you can control–to become informed, to be bold, to be resourceful, and to be an ethical global citizen.

As I said in my message yesterday, our charge is clear. The world is changing and our community is not going to step aside. Rather, as we have for generations, we will take our rightful and honorable place shaping this changing world.

I am proud to an American because I know that it comes with both rights and responsibilities and I plan to exercise them.

I am proud to be the head of Miss Porter’s School because I believe in the vision of our founder–that women should be fully prepared to take their place in the world.

And most importantly, I am proud to be your head of school, because I know that you care as much as I do. Your engagement and your emotions prove to me that you both ready and willing to accept the call of our mission statement.  

Today, I ask that we embrace each other fully with kindness and respect, to acknowledge that we are all individuals, and that we will have personal reactions to the outcome of the election and that they are each true and real. Be present for each other as individuals and at the end of day, may we come together prepared, as we have done for generations here at Miss Porter’s School, to be the very best we can be.

I heard from many Ancients yesterday; many said, “I always thought the first woman president would be an Ancient” and today, this is still possible.