I wanted to share the chapel talk that I delivered on December 1, 2016, after the Thanksgiving break. My intent was to provide some post-election perspective to our community. In this chapel talk, I share with you a letter I am writing to President-elect Donald Trump, which will be sent to him after his inauguration on January 20, 2017.
Dear President Trump, Congratulations upon assuming the highest office in the land as our forty-fifth President. One of my responsibilities, as the eighth headmaster of Groton School, is to write a letter to a new U.S. President soon after he or she has been sworn in as the leader of the free world. I am an immigrant from South Africa, a relatively new American whose first name — Temba — means hope, and whose last name — Maqubela — means progress. For the last thirty-two years, my spouse, Vuyelwa (whose name means joy) and I have had the joy and privilege of teaching U.S. teenagers, making a modest contribution in preparing them for lives of purpose, meaning, and usefulness to humankind. My colleagues at Groton School and those before them have done even more. Among the most obvious results are three graduates who currently are Congressmen, serving on both sides of the aisle. Congressmen Jim Cooper of Tennessee, George Holding of North Carolina, and Bobby Scott of Virginia all are Groton School graduates. They represent extraordinary accomplishment and exemplify scholarship and service. Another great Congressman I taught at a previous school still calls me Mr. Maq. What is unique is how Congressman Seth Moulton and I have kept in touch for the last twenty years — through his years at Harvard, where he earned a BS in physics and absorbed the wisdom of his mentor, the Reverend Peter Gomes, and during his four tours as a marine in Iraq. I hope you get to know these Congressmen — all of them scholars and patriots. Mr. President, Groton School’s intentionally diverse community unambiguously embraces inclusion, and since the school’s founding, each of my predecessors played a crucial role in nurturing and advancing this ideal. In our union and on the Groton Circle, we know that words and actions matter. Our diverse make-up at Groton — and indeed in our country — is a strength. Without exception since President Theodore Roosevelt, nineteen of your predecessors have sent a signed letter and portrait to Groton School for our presidential letter collection — now a tradition for more than a century. I write to ask you to continue this tradition. This unbroken chain symbolizes the enduring power of our democracy as well as Groton pride. Many of our previous Presidents’ messages have inspired our learners and their teachers to continue to devote themselves to lives of learning, character, leadership, and service. Your letter will reinforce Groton’s enduring pillars of scholarship, service, spirituality, and globalism. I prefer to view and interpret our motto — Cui Servire Est Regnare — as affirming service as the most authentic form of leadership. I look forward to hearing from you.
Message from the Headmaster
OW I TURN personal as I address
you—the students, faculty, and staff—on the power and liberation that flows from reconciliation. In 1986, my then eighty-two-year-old maternal grandmother was one of the few who were allowed to visit the imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Mrs. Maqubela’s brother drove her to the prison gates, from where she walked the remaining yards to visit this famous prisoner. The one word that she repeated when I asked
Groton School Quarterly
about what was shared was: Reconciliation. I remember telling Granny over lunch that, as a radical, I was not prepared to accept this so-called reconciliation. Granny, a granddaughter of a Lithuanian Jew, gave me a look of disappointment that only a grandmother could give. I resisted her glare of admonition. In 1989, the Reverend Beyers Naudé—the white activist who was banned from 1977–1984, a man who had thrown his weight fighting against apartheid (or