Head of School
In a profile for the New Yorker last fall, writer Jeffrey Toobin described a 2014 confrontation in the checkout line at Home Depot between former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ’74 and a man, angered by a policy decision, who began shouting at the then governor. It was a story about the nature of criticism and praise.
Everyone nearby could hear the man’s loud and aggressive assertions, but few heard the whispers of support and kindness from six other people who approached Deval in the store. “Something is so wrong when we learn to shout our anger and whisper our kindness,” he told Toobin. “We have got to learn to stop being ashamed of being kind.”
Experience has taught me that it is always wise to read both the Milton Paper and the Milton Measure, especially before Parents’ Weekend. This year, I was moved to tears by the Milton Paper editorial about a survey that asked students what they’d most like to say to their parents. That question might strike fear in the hearts of many parents—or of faculty and administrators. Much to my delight, and I suspect to parents’ as well, the number-one answer was “I love you!” I don’t know whether I was moved more by the students’ expression of love for their parents, or by the publication of the article when positive stories are so hard to come by—in any medium. But I know we need more of this.
Too often, we are inclined to shout our criticisms and whisper our praise. As news consumers, we find it easy to home in on the bad—there’s plenty of it, bursting out of our devices, streaming through social media feeds. But for our own well-being and that of others, seeking and acknowledging the good in the world is essential. On “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” the late Fred Rogers, the subject of a 2018 documentary, reminded children, “When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Even in challenging times, having the courage to share the kindness around us is important. Further, we must be the “helpers,” who help meet the challenges that arise.
Milton helps young people understand the importance of self-expression, whether through writing, innovation, public speaking, art, performance, research, or mathematical and scientific exploration. Milton voices have always expressed themselves with power and quality, beginning with student activities and continuing through the strong work of alumni who are featured in Milton Magazine over time. Collectively, they call on us to seek and declare truth in our lives and in our communities, to dare to be true.
Five years ago at Convocation, I raised the importance of daring to be true with love. That all our efforts to live by our school’s motto are for naught if they are not built upon a foundation of kindness. This message is essential and timeless, I believe, and has more urgency now than ever before, as tension among people seems to near its boiling point. We should all contribute to a world with positivity.
Recognizing and confronting violence, injustice, oppression, inequality and hate in our society is vital. Milton graduates must continue to name the injustices and the evils of the world and to right those wrongs wherever they are. Balancing that call-out with the power that comes from love and kindness is equally important. We must declare our support for and acknowledge the kindness and goodwill that we humans show to one another. I hope that Milton continues to prepare students for a global society, helping them gain the tools necessary to succeed and the courage to declare their truths, guided by love. Let’s not be ashamed to be kind.