Thursday, December 12, 2019

Faithful Friendship Across Deep Differences

“Be a voice, not an echo.” – Cornel West

Watch the full conversation here.
On Monday MBA and St. Paul Christian Academy hosted two eminent scholars and teachers, Dr. Robert George (Princeton University) and Dr. Cornel West (Harvard Divinity School). The event was presented by the Trinity Forum, an organization that “endeavors to cultivate, curate, and disseminate the best of Christian thought, to equip leaders to think, work, and lead wisely and well.” Famously, Dr. George and Dr. West are close friends, though the former aligns himself with conservative thought, and the latter identifies himself with leftist perspectives. West and George spent the evening talking about their friendship and how their differing political, sociological and intellectual points of view ironically brought them together. It was a special treat to listen to these two great intellects talk, one calling on the mesmerizing cadences probably learnt from his Baptist preacher father, the other speaking with the quiet power of eloquence. Both men proved their intellectual greatness by preaching a message of love, of the connectedness of humanity and of the power of dialog, with great simplicity and humility. According to these men, their friendship was founded on the recognition of integrity, thoughtfulness and kindness in each other. They both agreed that these qualities could not have been discerned in each other had neither of them had the willingness to listen. Indeed, West
went on to observe that present day discourse in politics and matters of race had substituted civility and politeness for kindness and respect. I think what he meant was that no one listens to an opposing argument these days, rather, he or she just waits for his or her turn to speak, to harangue, to beat down. West spoke of the modern day phenomenon of the “echo chamber”, where the sound bites of the market place, the slogans and the rants ring loud but hollow and endeavor to replace the high music of morality and thoughtfulness. He cited the People of Color Conference as an example of the echo chamber, “full of like-minded people who might be wrong.” Invoking the ghost of renowned Irish playwright and funny man, Samuel Beckett, West wondered if our arguments should be prefaced with the word “perhaps”, to replace the stridency and self-righteousness prevalent in public discourse today. Perhaps “perhaps” means love.

Speaking of the PoCC, Sophomores Darin Hall and Yadev Surati attended this year’s event in Seattle. The boys worked hard, from 8:00 am each morning until 9:30 each night, discussing issues of social justice, social tolerance, and self-awareness and listening to the life stories of others. Darin and Yadev, who will present their experiences and findings at the PoCC at assembly next semester, were accompanied by Mr. Redmond and me. We attended workshops on Authenticity, Maintaining Inclusion, and The Importance of Minority Faculty in Independent Schools. We will have much to discuss with the Inclusion committee next month. Perhaps the greatest takeaway from the PoCC was that dialog must continue and that solutions must be found for old and continued grievances.

Well, 2019 nears its end and roasting chestnuts, open fires, and great Christmas movies such as Die Hard beckon brightly. We wish all the boys great success in their exams and hope they enjoy a well-deserved rest and holiday. To the parents and faculty and staff too, Jamie and I hope you all have a marvelous break and celebration.

-Michael Kelly & Jamie Redmond

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Serving with Swords and Words

by Michael Kelly

MBA’s Veterans Day event honored all those who served in the United States of America’s Armed Forces with a marvelous breakfast ceremony. Mr. Gioia hosted the breakfast in a packed dining hall. Senior Wylie Ritter introduced the MBA choir who performed a powerful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner under the metronomic limbs of choir director Matt Smyth. Friend of MBA and father of two graduates, Matt & Steven, Mr. Steven Smith introduced the keynote speaker for the ceremony, Lieutenant General Keith Huber of the United States Army. Mr. Smith briefly listed Gen. Huber’s many accomplishments. According to Mr. Smith, if General Huber were a graduate of MBA, a more robust rendering of the MBA motto might apply to him because of his courageous actions in the field of combat.

Gen. Huber, whose grandfather served during WWI and whose father served in WWII, spoke passionately about his serving in the US military, how neither he nor any of the men with whom he served ever saw themselves as heroes: they felt that role should be reserved for the families left behind. He noted that 158 alumni of MBA had served in the armed forces. He also spoke about the connection between communication and leadership, how effective leaders still know how to look a person in the eye rather than their relying on social media or email to communicate effectively. General Huber now works at MTSU, overseeing programs that help veterans return to their communities. Unfortunately, not all veterans return and one such veteran was Tom Kettle who wrote this poem for his infant daughter in an attempt to explain the call to serve during war time. Kettle was killed in action on September 9, 1916.

To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God
In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your mother's prime,
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You'll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death. And oh! they'll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor. 

                                                           Tom Kettle MP, 1880-1916

MBA is proud of our current teachers who have served in the US Military:

Chris Calico (Lieutenant): Panama, Cuba, and Puerto Rico doing counter-drug patrols; Desert Shield; Balkan War. Flight instructor at NAS Kingsville, TX )Math teacher

Dr. Jim Lech: US Air Force Intelligence Analyst 1991-1994. Economics teacher

Joe Sharbel (Lieutenant Colonel), United States Marine Corps: Served as Tank Officer, Data Communications Officer 1983 – 2005. History teacher

Stephen Shone (Capt): West Point Academy graduate 1989. Served in Operation Desert Storm. Captain of a nuclear missile battery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Math teacher.

Patrick Simpson (Capt): Served in the US Army from 2006-2012. Served in Baghdad, Iraq. History teacher; Dean of Lower School

Mike Raney (Lieutenant Colonel): Served in the U.S. Army commanding task force operations in various units in the United States and in Central and South America, Europe and the Middle East. Also served as an instructor at West Point Academy. Math teacher

Steve Walsnovich (Sergeant): Served in Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Chef/Operations Manager, Sage Food Services

In other news, a war of words broke out on campus this past Tuesday where the top gun student team of Aden Barton (’20) and Sam Meacham (’21) took on the sartorially tailored team of Josh Clarke and Kevin Hamrick, two of MBA’s finest debate coaches. In a packed Paschall Theater, Mr. Roddy Story, doyen of the history department and owner of a lovely tweedy blazer, introduced the debaters, the panel of five judges and the topic: “Should President Trump be impeached?” The exchanges were sometimes flinty but always informed and entertaining. Barton spoke with fire and delivered the facts with the dramatic flair of a Kobe restaurant chef. Meacham’s performance was equally convincing as he engaged in razor sharp exchanges with Hamrick who was almost on the ropes until Clarke, with the assurance of a sleepwalker, delivered the coup de grace by quoting a “noted American historian’[s]” incontrovertible evidence for the teacher team. After about 20 seconds consultation between librarian Robbie Quinn and his panel of judges (three teachers and two students), the teacher team was declared the winner in a 3-2 vote. No hanging chads were reported.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Lessons from the Springboks

by Michael Kelly

The Springboks of South Africa won the Rugby World cup last weekend, beating a very good English team in Yokohama, Japan. Incidentally, one of the players on the Springbok team, Francois Louw (’03) was educated at Bishops School in Cape Town where our current exchange students, Joseph, Pierre and Richard usually plod their weary way. I’m sure that they are very proud of him. Mrs. Scholer (on permanent exchange from South Africa you might say) was also rather chuffed with SA’s lifting the Webb Ellis trophy for the third time. Meanwhile, were there an Olympic event for a stoic attitude, Dr. Boyd and Mr. Morrison (our resident Brits) would have finished second. Great sporting spectacles apart, I think we are all familiar with South Africa’s history of apartheid, its government’s excellent decision to end this practice in 1994, and the country’s courageous attempt to move forward through programs of Truth and Reconciliation. The scars and pain caused by such a practice as apartheid or slavery are hard to heal and the work of healing continues slowly. In the spirit of slow healing, the South African rugby team, previously a bastion of white men, made a powerful statement by having as its captain, Siya Kolisi , the first black African to hold that position. Please see Kolisi’s powerful after-match interview here.
Image result for Siya Kolisi
Such a development by South African rugby was prompted by the embracing of forgiveness, the addressing of the truth, and the moving towards reconciliation. In my own native country such moves are painfully slow, but this poem by Michael Longley (I promise to move away from Irish poets next week) describes wonderfully the humility, and generosity needed for one to forgive. In the poem, Longley describes a meeting between Achilles, hero of Greece, and Priam, father of Hector, the hero of Troy. In combat Achilles kills Hector. The image of “sadness filling the building” and the final line of the poem contrasts powerfully the consequence of violence and the humility of forgiveness.

Put in mind of his own father and moved to tears
Achilles took him by the hand and pushed the old king
Gently away, but Priam curled up at his feet and
Wept with him until their sadness filled the building.
Taking Hector’s corpse into his own hands Achilles
Made sure it was washed and, for the old king’s sake, 
Laid out in uniform, ready for Priam to carry 
Wrapped like a present home to Troy at daybreak.

When they had eaten together, it pleased them both
To stare at each other’s beauty as lovers might, 
Achilles built like a god, Priam good-looking still
And full of conversation, who earlier had sighed:
‘I get down on my knees and do what must be done
And kiss Achilles’ hand, the killer of my son.’ Michael Longley 1994

In other news, we attended two marvelous events last week: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner; and the first Community Inclusion Tailgate. The Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner event was graciously hosted by Keith Meacham, Paul & Miky Lim and Clay & Amy Richards at the Lim home. Great food, wonderful conversation and MBA people meeting MBA people all contributed to a marvelous evening. Friday’s Community Inclusion Tailgate had to compete with other gatherings but still many popped in to say hello.

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