"Eddie would go." That phrase was woven through Rahmi Mowjood's '90 chapel talk on Sunday. It references famous and beloved Hawaiian surfer Eddie Auka who paddled out one day in the midst of a desperate and failing search for a couple of boaters, ultimately sacrificing his life trying to save theirs. On the island and within the huge surfer family, the expression "Eddie would go" was used whenever the question or discussion at hand had to do with serving others, being selfless, being courageous, being honorable.
Our famous "pew squeaking index" was at absolute zero on Sunday evening as Rahmi (one of our young "old boys") talked about how the Webb honor code became even more meaningful in his life after Webb than it was while he was a student here, even in the time he served as an Honor Committeeman. As a doctor and a social activist, Rahmi found the core of an honorable life grounded by selfless, courageous service; and on many humanitarian missions as well as in his everyday practice and community outreach, he has had plenty of experience placing himself in harm's way in order to help those more vulnerable than himself. Principes non Homines.
What especially resonated with me was Rahmi's point that you don't have to have a formal leadership position in order to lead. You don't have to affect millions, thousands, or even hundreds of people in order to lead an honorable life of positive influence that makes the world a better and safer place as he put it "just with a smile and an outreached hand." When Rahmi shared the story of his struggle to ascend the walls of the Grand Canyon on the traditional senior boys' end of year trip and his two classmates - one who took Rahmi's pack and carried it on his back with his own and the other who simply walked by Rahmi's side not even saying a word - his point was touchingly and eloquently made. No fuss. No muss. Just, "Eddie would go."
And here's the best part of this story: As usual we all descended from the chapel to the Price Dining Hall for dinner. This time around I happen to have an exceptional table of boys - all athletes, all good students (of course), all engaged and affable young men. I have a lot of fun with them at dinner but, as it turned out on Sunday night, our waiter had a lot to do and our assistant waiter had three helpings of spaghetti woefully slowing his ability to clear the table, get dessert going, etc. At two different times, we needed a couple of others to just step in and step up - small potatoes proposition maybe but important on Sunday night at 7:15 just before study hours. Well it happened and two underclassmen, both new boys, did just that and one of the seniors approvingly said, "They listened to Rahmi's talk. Hey, you're good men."
The whole circle of meaning and relationship that rests in this Sunday evening vignette not only made my day, but it's really stuck with me. The simple tradition of the Sunday chapel program, of periodic alumni talks that pay forward the sacred things of our school, of sharing dinner together family style as a school, of having to practice the little acts of service and thoughtfulness that civil and rewarding living requires, of preparing - in other words - to be like Eddie - or like Rahmi for that matter are the core of Webb and the difference this place makes in people and the difference good people make in this place.
Susan A. Nelson is Head Emerita of The Webb Schools.