While a good deal of our school’s intention over the last week was rightly focused on end-of-year celebrations, the successful and long-anticipated launch of our graduating seniors on Saturday and the opening of a promising future awaiting each of our young men, I can’t help but wonder just what they may be making of that possibility in the wake of the senseless and public murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and the subsequent protests, upheaval and fallout as our country grapples with its continuing struggle to live more fully into its rightful, but still elusive, destiny as a democracy where all human beings, God’s children, can live in widening circles of freedom and enjoy the honest fruits of liberty and justice.
It is difficult and upsetting to see these events and witness so much unrest and frustration being voiced not only on the news, but by friends and colleagues troubled and burdened by the throes of systemic injustice, prejudice and oppression. I hurt because these are my friends and family. I hurt also because I love this country and what it can be. I harbor aspirations for it because I love my friends and I definitely want something more for us all, especially for my students and my colleagues as we work so hard to prepare for the future, our future.
Though raised in the East, I am a child of the Midwest. Born in North Dakota and having attended college in St. Paul, Minneapolis’ twin city, my heart aches for this great metropolis and for lifelong friends who not only live there but have worked tirelessly to establish a strong, diverse and vibrant community. One of these good friends, B. Todd Jones, came to Exton and spoke to the Church Farm School community a few years ago at Convocation. His service to the county as a US Marine, work as US Attorney for Minnesota and later as acting Director of the ATF in the Obama Administration, emanate from lessons learned while we were in college and interning for former Senator and Vice President of the US, Hubert Humphrey, an active and engaging political champion of the civil rights movement when he was mayor in the 1940s. Known as the "Happy Warrior," Senator Humphrey early and consistently advocated for a country of opportunity for all and a government that could open doors to it through education and civic participation.
Todd and I are beneficiaries of American education and the opportunity to live into our dreams it could provide. As fathers, we have raised our children similarly although, unlike me, he has been compelled to add a variety of practical lessons for his children that I have not been so burdened to provide mine: How to be aware of your surroundings, what to do when (not if) you are stopped by the police, how to be home alone in the suburbs with many of your neighbors unsure of who you are and perhaps even fearful. I have listened to other close and lifelong friends and colleagues speak of the same uncertainties and fears as their children, whom we specifically and endearingly refer to as family, have come of age and now have children of their own. Together, we realize the country we seek is continually a project under construction, a society to be fashioned and a people to be seen, known and embraced for who we are – gifts to one another. We simply are not there, yet.
Church Farm School has not been immune to or silent on these matters and continually seeks to dispel disparity and injustice through its mission work in education. Yet, even here we have to acknowledge an important change in that mission that once stated it was to be provided for "white minor boys," eventually changing that declaration in the early 1960s to "qualified" minor boys. Sixty years later, our curriculum yearns to teach civic virtues and lessons from the American and global experience, yet through a broader lens of voices and perspectives. St. Paul reminds us that, "God shows no partiality." Thus, we have work to do in order to more fully acknowledge and acclaim the contributions made by people of color, particularly those ancestors who arrived here in the scourge of the slave trade, along with generations of immigrants, women and others whose work and plight to win freedoms associated with those contributions to society have not been given due attention, let alone voice. CFS is endeavoring to meet this important goal.
In closing this particular letter, I would like our students and alumni especially to know that their school is here for them and that my colleagues and I seek to listen while also being trusted sources of encouragement and strength. We work every day to earn this trust, too. The way things are now do not indicate that they will be this way tomorrow should we recommit ourselves to one another and the construction of a commonwealth built on opportunity and shaping the skills and talent needed to do so. Let us continue to walk more fully in this direction together.
With abiding respect and admiration for you,
Head of School | Church Farm School