Melissa Soderberg, Head of School
August 21, 2017
 
Dear Families and Friends,
 
Sky wolves, in Norse lore, were the perpetrators of lunar and solar eclipses -- but in spite of the Viking spirit burgeoning on our campus this week, I'm not sure we saw wolves take over the sun today.
 
Still, I can't imagine a better way to start the school year than with a magically grand cosmic event marking the day we open. Right as we are making windows squeaky clean, carefully arranging pencils and donning fresh new shoes and haircuts, the universe rushes in to remind us that we are small in relation to the elements of the cosmos that every human being relies on to live and breathe on this planet.
 
In Togo, the myth of the eclipse among the Batammaliba is that the sun and the moon are fighting while the people encourage them to stop their war and go on in peace. Eclipses are times of resolving old feuds and healing, a conviction that continues to this day according to cultural astronomers.
 
Aside from the quaintness of these beliefs, I am drawn to their wider implications that even the vastness of the universe requires the attention -- and, frankly, the cooperation -- of all people to maintain its order and balance.
 
And the message could not be timelier. Events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the resulting national discussion surrounding hate and bigotry begs that we as a school restate our u nequivocal assertion of preparing all students for a pluralistic (i.e., recognizing there is more than one thought, path or way) world and teaching the transcendence of polarization through emphasizing ideals such as our mission's stated values of respect, responsibility, honesty, compassion, fairness, moral courage and integrity.
 
Yet, stating and restating our mission can be as empty as a mirage on the desert if it is not lived by the people it serves: the faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, students and parents of Columbus Academy. Therefore, it is going to take every one of us to transcend the messy ease with which such pernicious ideas as neo-Nazism and white supremacy have slithered back onto our national stage and thereby into our classrooms and dinner table conversations.
 
Obviously, there is no single antidote for abject bigotry in the world, but there is a path we can choose as a community. Hate lives in the kind of thinking that eludes generosity and kindness. Hate is housed in the darkest underbelly of loyalty and "us and them" speak. Hate arises primarily from ignorance and isolation.
 
As a community devoted to knowledge, ideas and ideals, we can resolve to devote ourselves with a greater intensity of purpose towards the good, the life-affirming and the community-generating aspects of school days. For all adults, this means seeking understanding before blame and stepping out of our comfortable groups to reach out to the more isolated among us.
 
We can choose to sit with different people at each of our children's performances and games and find out why they send their children to Columbus Academy. We can invite a family we don't know well to dinner. Chances are it will feel awkward at first, and our children will balk. I encourage you to be brave and go ahead with the plan, as we will be showing how to practice building our community.
 
Founded in 1911, the school has witnessed its share of turmoil in the country and the world, and always the resolve of the community has strengthened in its quest of the best ways to promote the highest virtues in its students.
 
I have every faith that we will continue that path.
 
Warmly,
 
Melissa
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