By Taylor Stockdale
Last Saturday, May 30, as members of the Class of 2020 became official graduates of The Webb Schools, I told them they would meet tremendous adversity in their lives, and that we needed them to lead us toward a better nation and a better world. That need for strong moral leadership has become increasingly apparent and immediate in their first few days as alumni.
While online and in-person graduation celebrations were taking place, the scenes in major cities across America were transitioning from peaceful protest into chaos. The horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, on the heels of the death of Ahmaud Arbery near the Georgia coast, ignited national outrage. COVID 19 has been difficult enough, and now this. It is devastating to see, and a stark reminder of how far we have to go in creating true equality as a society and as a nation. The brutal and utterly inhuman treatment of George Floyd was unbearable to watch. This type of behavior has existed for decades, even centuries, and now is being caught on film. It must stop. We must do all that is required to stop it.
Members of The Webb community strive to lead lives with honor and moral courage, to help those who are marginalized and in greatest need—we see this all as a commitment to civic responsibility. This aspect of our purpose as a community has never been more important.
We talk a good deal about Webb’s next century; it goes hand-in-hand with our country’s next century. All that we stand for—life, liberty and justice—is being challenged and perhaps it is even in peril. Especially, I say again, justice for all.This country was built on important ideals, ideals that offered us immense inspiration, bravery, pride and determination. We have been deeply flawed as a country throughout our history, and yet we have also been a country that the world has counted on to defend these core values. As arduous, painful and messy as it has been, we have a history of rising to the occasion, and being a beacon of hope dating back to our Founding, the American Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, 9/11 and so on. At critical times in our history as a country, we have found the inner strength to confront brutal realities and strive for a better future. This must be one of those moments. Our national identity and way of life will depend on it. We must find ways to ensure both individual liberty and justice for all.
We know that education can be a catalyst for change. Our work as a learning community has never been more important. The values that we hold dear, and the ways in which we support one another, are true gifts never to be taken for granted. Whether it is hearing a senior bear their soul in Chapel, a service trip, a campus event organized by our student government, or even a difficult honor violation being debated, we do our work with the determination to ensure everyone here has a place and a voice. I leave you with these messages:
To our Students: We have good work to do when we are back in the fall—reinforcing these timeless values as we go about our days working for a better future.
To the Class of 2020: We are saddened to graduate you into a world in such a state, but as I said on Saturday, you have what it takes to meet adversity head on and lead with moral courage.
To our Alumni, Parents and Friends: Thank you for your ongoing support as we strive to inspire students to be leaders we can count on.
To our Faculty and Staff: Never before has our work been more important, nor have we been so well equipped to deliver to it.