seen the power of a community where everyone has a “place at the table.”
The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.
Here’s what The Vanguard wrote in March about the climate on campus during a presidential election year: “An open mind is the greatest hallmark of intelligence. To become truly educated—and to feel safe and at home at school—an important step is hearing out a variety of political ideologies.”
In this statement we ﬁnd what it is that makes BB&N so powerful. The “sympathy,” the support, of this community has made this a good place for you to be these past several years. And as the senior leaders of the School, it has been your care of that “sympathy” that has made BB&N a better school for all.
That’s well said. Let me be clear: you do not need to agree with everything you hear but you must treat it respectfully. What I am talking about here is really civility, a word which comes from the Latin meaning “citizen.” Conversely, “incivility,”— something we are seeing far too much of in the rhetoric of this election season—has a similar origin. It means “not of a citizen.” Civility is not the same as politeness or political correctness: it implies neither a lack of passion nor a lack of conviction. It does, however, absolutely insist on fundamental respect.
*** As you get ready to leave, I ask that you live by the habits of mind you learned here. And in these contentious times, I ask something more of you: that you take the civility cultivated within this School and spread it. Spread it to your communities. Spread it to your college campuses. Spread it among friends, and practice it with those you think of as adversaries. Class of 2016, it is with a great deal of pride that I join the faculty, your families, and friends in sending our heartfelt congratulations, best wishes, and affection. Godspeed.
Without civility, communities—large and small—fragment. That is why your teachers, advisors, and coaches have been so adamant on this point. With civility, communities—large and small—are more welcoming, more fulﬁlling places to be. This is why you have been so adamant on this point. Respect for this shared belief can even be found in our School’s mission statement, whose most indispensable words I have long considered to be “principled engagement.” *** Just a few weeks ago, faculty posted some of their favorite quotes around the school. Perhaps it is because I have recently thought a lot about civility and its impact on our society that I was particularly taken by these lines from philosopher William James: 3