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SAAS Community Election Letter from the Head of School

Photo of Seattle Academy Head of School Rob Phillips

Dear SAAS Community Members, 

As our nation prepares for another election tomorrow, I’m again reminded that civic engagement is a fundamental component of our mission at Seattle Academy. One of our core precepts is that it’s our job is teach our students how to think, not what to think.

Elections put that precept to the test. They present us with an opportunity for reflection and an opportunity to reconsider assumptions.  They should generate dialogue, as well as call us to action. And the act of voting also carries the inherent reminder that making a statement and shouldering responsibility are not automatically the same thing.

I believe that we are, as a nation, confronted with stark contrasts. As we move towards a voting day on Tuesday, our political discourse has deteriorated at an alarming rate, and the widening divisions in our nation demonstrate that the need for dialogue is greater than ever.

We have enormous problems to address and unprecedented tools to tackle them with, but our leadership, and perhaps our society as a whole, struggles to move beyond recriminations or to think sustainably and equitably about the future.

And at a time when we need to come together, build, and even redefine equity, opportunity, and community, we see instead an escalation of targeted acts of hate speech and violence.

The Bad News: our kids are watching and listening.
The Good News: our kids are watching and listening.

And they’re growing up with a sense of urgency about what they see in the present, about their future, about the need for responsible leadership.

They’re coming into the understanding that they have a voice and that they can and should use that voice, to take a stand and to take on both the opportunities and responsibilities the future will require of them.

In the past year, I’ve seen our students address gun violence in our schools, our churches and synagogues, and in society in general.

I’ve seen students grapple with the question of whether to stand or kneel for the anthem, of how to communicate their decision to stand or kneel, and what concrete actions they should take when the music stops and the anthem has been played.

I’ve seen them use their voice to address the neglect of mental health issues by our political leadership.

I’ve seen our students address the issue of homelessness in our city, and speak out against the disproportionate rates of the incarceration of and violence against specific groups within our communities.

I’ve seen students travel to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as participate in campaigns in support of reproductive rights, voting rights, and in organizations devoted to combating climate change.

And I’ve seen students who stand tall with courage for the convictions of their faith and for their conservative political beliefs in a city and school where they are a distinct minority.

So yes, contrasts. There’s a lot of bad news, and a lot of good news, too.

As our nation goes to the polls tomorrow, I’d ask that we maintain a sense of balance, or at least recognize that our students need us to model in positive ways what it means to engage in productive rather than divisive political discourse.

Let’s model productive action and responsibility by voting ourselves and by giving our kids opportunities to engage in the political process. If students are missing school to work with campaigns, a candidate, or an initiative, that’s time well spent.

And let’s try to remind our students and each other that we have the power to build resilient communities, regardless of who wins elections.  We – not our senators or representatives or mayors – have the power to take care of each other, to listen as well as speak, to think and to act, and to build strong communities based on shared values.

Thank you for the many diverse and meaningful ways you build and support our kids and our community. I’m immensely grateful to be a part of this community.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly with questions, concerns, and suggestions.

Regards,

Rob Phillips
Head of School

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