The atmosphere of love and understanding called for in our Mission is the foundation for all that we do at Moravian Academy. In the past week, our campuses felt that foundation shaken by the strong emotions following the presidential election. Collectively our community experienced reactions of relief, celebration, confusion, sadness, frustration, and fear, among other emotions. In the days immediately following the election, individuals in both the Middle School and the Upper School, both students and adults and from multiple sides of the political spectrum, expressed sadness, discomfort and even fear brought on by other members of our Moravian Academy community. In a few cases in the hallways and on social media, our students encountered each other using increasingly coarse, intolerant, aggressive and even hateful speech, some of it based on gender, race and ethnicity. These acts violate our core values. All students are welcomed at Moravian Academy. It is important for you to know we are taking immediate steps to confront these behaviors, on all sides, and to uphold our environment of safety and respect for all students.
I share this with you because I know we all are invested in our atmosphere of love and understanding. In some degree, it is why each of us has chosen to be here. We also know that respecting and including all people, like making multiplication tables automatic or making three-point shots on the basketball court, takes work. It also takes practice. There are setbacks and there are breakthroughs. At each step, young people need the people around them—their peers as well as their adults—to give feedback, reassurance, courage, forgiveness, and resolve to keep trying.
It is particularly important for us to acknowledge the complexities of this work. In a diverse and inclusive community like ours, which is committed to civil and humane discourse, our students regularly encounter ideas and backgrounds that are quite new to them. Indeed, connecting with people who are different and expanding beyond the groups that we already identify with are vital parts of the Moravian Academy experience. Words alone are not enough, however, for children of all ages, and especially adolescents, know when the words they hear do not match the actions that they see.
This is why we challenge students to be active stewards of an atmosphere of love and understanding. Being community builders fosters their empathy and leadership skills. While we expect mutual respect from all members of our community, we also must challenge ourselves to reach beyond this by being inclusive and seeking to understand each other better. We know it is important to show love particularly for those whom we do not feel an easy bond with, because we know it is by looking beyond the surface of each person that we discover the decency and basic human values that connect us all.
These values have been a part of our school since its inception in 1742. They have sustained our community in times of peace and in times of national strife. As we look to the contemporary world and the one our children will inherit, we should let the traditional motto of the Moravian Church instruct and inspire us: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.
Our school and community are strong. We become stronger each day that we engage honestly, humbly, and respectfully in these conversations. Reading this month’s news in MA Voices also reminds me how full and rich our students’ experiences are. As we approach the season of giving thanks, I want to thank all students, faculty, and families for your perseverance on this journey together, for choosing to sit with new people at mealtimes, for singing with full voices in Chapel, and for your many creative and thoughtful efforts to strengthen our atmosphere of love and understanding.
Jeffrey M. Zemsky