Upper School Director's Blog: Convocation 2020 Speech

Good morning.

Welcome to all of you. Whether you are gathered here in the Todd Quad or gathered around a screen in class, at home, or at work, we are happy to have you with us.

We are assembled here today for two things: a convocation and an investiture.

A convocation is a gathering or an assembly, but a special kind. Its root words from Medieval French and Latin mean together and voice, and those roots teach us what we are doing here today. We are raising our voices together, reciting pledges and oaths as one. However, that does not mean that we all think alike, that we are always going to say the same things or believe the same things. What it does mean is that we can come together, speak together, and be a community together. Not just today, but in all the days to come. As the ancient Isaiah said, “Come now, and let us reason together.” That is what convocation means and why we are here today.

The root words for the Medieval word investiture are a little different. They mean to put on clothes. It applied to when someone had achieved a special rank or status; they would put on a special robe or garter or sash or stole to show what level they had reached—just as Mr. Rowell and Mr. Matthews and others wear their robes today. Medieval knights, some of whom wore such garters and sashes,

also would put on metal armor and carry shields to protect themselves. Two famous such knights were Richard Lionheart and Salah ad-Din. They were from different lands (one English, one Kurdish), different backgrounds, different ethnicities, and different religions (one Christian, one Muslim), and they were leaders of opposing armies, so one would naturally imagine they would have been bitter enemies. However, they shared common values, such as courage, integrity, respect, compassion, and excellence, and they formed a relationship despite their differences because what they had in common was more important than what kept them apart. In fact, their reputations for courtesy and valor became legendary in each other’s country’s history.

Today you seniors also are dressed up in special clothes, and our whole school of GSB Knights, from Pre-K to Grade 12, also are putting on their modern armor; although not of metal or chain mail, they are masks and shields all the same, and in this new world, cotton and plastic can be just as protective as steel. My hope is that we will be able, even while we fight off things that are trying to drive us apart, that we can act in some way like Richard Lionheart and Salah ad-Din, to recognize our core values in each other and remember how important relationships are in this community. Maybe we can even show the rest of the world how it can be done.

The next time you seniors will be in special vestments (and I don’t include costumes for Halloween and turkey hats in November) is in June—in your white

dresses and white shirts and ties for commencement. I hope you will shine in the sun that day, shine with the courage and love that make up this place, so that we can be that shining city on the hill that the ancients talked about, so that we can show that it is possible to say to one another, “Come then, let us reason together,” and then do so with grace and humility and fervor, so that we can shine a light on compassion and service as solutions, not just slogans.

So today, here, we begin this year’s journey, and each new twist of 2020 will remind us: our voices will trace our togetherness, and our choices will determine our trajectory.

Again, welcome, and go Knights.

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