Even though I’m the Director of Admission, I continue to think of myself as a history teacher first and foremost. I taught AP Government and Politics and Middle School Civics for many years at Solebury, in addition to several other classes.
This past weekend was historic in many ways that we should celebrate and remember as we move forward as individuals, communities, and a country. My first point may be the most important – our country once again experienced a peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next, for the 45th time in approximately the past 230 years. Never in the history of mankind has a society done this, to have one leader walk out the door and the next walk in with no threat of force, bloodshed, or struggle. It’s remarkable. Frankly, every time it happens in America – and every time it doesn’t happen elsewhere around the world – I am amazed and grateful.
The second way in which this weekend was historic was the engagement of our citizenry. Many people went to Washington to celebrate the inauguration of President Trump or gathered elsewhere to celebrate. On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people made their voices heard at Women’s Marches around the country and the world.
One of our goals for our students is that they see education as a tool to be wielded, as something they can use for the betterment of not just their own lives, but for the betterment of society. We push them to be engaged in the school community, to recognize that their voice matters, and to see that they can have an impact. By gaining the confidence to do this here, they develop the confidence to do it on a larger scale beyond Solebury. We offer them many opportunities to practice this, including through our Community Service program, our Teach2Serve program, our Global Education offerings, and more.
This past week’s historic events marked another opportunity. Teachers Jared Levy and Don Kaplan opened their classrooms during the inauguration on Friday to anyone who wanted to watch the peaceful transfer of power as President Trump took office and delivered the inaugural address. “I wanted to provide a space for students to watch the historic moment,” Jared said. “An inauguration is, as Scott said, a peaceful transfer of power and it’s also a time for the president-elect to address the nation and world for the first time as president, officially, after being sworn in. To that end, I think it’s worthwhile for citizens and students to see the event and what was said. Also, to be inclusive, I made the space open to students for poster making [for Saturday’s marches] and just plain donut eating. After the event, I was impressed with students’ maturity and interest and curiosity as to what’s going on in our country. They want to be part of the conversation, and I saw them taking steps to be more informed.”
On Saturday, Jared and Don drove interested students to a local march in Doylestown, PA, where a reported 2,000 people gathered to peacefully exercise their 1st amendment rights. “There seems to be a misconception on the part of many students that marches are either too political or not political enough,” Jared said in an email to faculty last week. “At the heart of it is engaged citizenry and exercising one’s first amendment rights, because as one of my English teachers used to say, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it.’ And it seems to me to be as much about connecting with one’s community as anything.”
Jared also runs our Debate Team, and last year he held a debate on campus that addressed the question, “Should teenagers be involved in the political process?” The student body overwhelmingly sided with the affirmative in the debate (saying yes, they should be). Yesterday, Jared spoke in our morning assembly about last year’s debate and this weekend’s student activism. He talked about how encouraging it is to see young people caring about the world, to see them willing to take time out of their lives to listen and to participate, and how much this bodes well for the future. I couldn’t agree with him more. The only way we can ensure that exiting Presidents will continue to leave the White House peacefully while others enter the same way, and the only way we can ensure that we continue to grow as a country, is by having an engaged citizenry. It is how we are heard, it is how we can connect with others, and it is hopefully how we can bridge some of the divisions that separate us right now.
Thanks to Jared and Don for providing forums for this to happen at Solebury, but mostly, thanks to the students who participated in both events – you make all of us proud.