Last week in this space, my colleague, Jess Halton, beautifully wrote about how we, as a community, can honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through “Teaching, Learning, and Philanthropy.” Her words got me thinking about legacy and how closely connected a person’s legacy is to our socialization, relationships with history, and personal experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and values.
During his life, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. represented hope and progressive change for some people, while his work and advocacy were despised by others. In his death, he is arguably the most respected and recognized face of the Civil Rights Movement. The mistreatment he experienced while he lived dramatically contrasts the reverence given to him after his passing and exemplifies the subjective nature of legacy.
When I look back at my own schooling (I attended independent schools like Belmont Day) and my experiences as a learner and community member, the adult me reflects through a lens that I did not have the maturity or wisdom to access in my youth. What I learned through hindsight has profoundly changed the legacies of the institutions responsible for my education. While these schools may have a different legacy in the eyes of my peers who attended them, the fact that I was marginalized in my own learning, sets them in a different light today.
So, how do we as a collective, ensure that our legacy will be defined the same by every learner and will not change in the future after reflection? We maintain an unwavering commitment to seeing our mission through to fruition. We embed our mission into every aspect of our work and create an ecology that is safe, supportive, and trauma-sensitive for each and every member. We honor our students, faculty, and community members by supporting their authenticity as individuals. We model humility by being open and receptive to learning about people and groups who do not share our same views, customs, and traditions; and through our willingness to show that we do not know everything about everything and everybody. We prove through our actions that our work is genuine because we live it every day.
In the end, when it is all said and done, our legacy will be defined not by us, but by the individual and collective experiences of our students and community members. And how they remember us, is what matters the most.
As timing would have it, tomorrow we will welcome prospective students and their families to Belmont Day for an admissions event. These students and their families, whether they join us for the 2024-25 school year or not, are just starting to build on their experiences and memories of our school. I am excited as I know that we will greet them, not only with smiles, curiosity, and helpful information but also with the determination and tools to help them feel that they will belong and will excel here.