January 22, 2020

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

I hope everyone took full advantage of Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. And by “full advantage,” I mean that I hope you all found time to truly step back, reflect, and think about the opportunities we all have and that our children have to make a difference in the world.

Each of our divisions held programs to talk about Dr. King. In the Upper School, a group of students and faculty shared critical reflections and quotes with a focus on the concept of service, commitment to others, and a sense of values. It became clear as more people spoke, that the core values that we embody here at School align with the value Dr. King shared with the world. With both his words or actions, he encouraged all of us to find a way to make the world a better place.

It was also noted in the Upper School that we can see our vision for every student reflected in Dr. King’s life. He took meaningful risks, was committed to being himself, and made a difference. Monday’s holiday was made a federal holiday in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan as an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our place in the world. It is amazing to realize that Dr. King was only 26-years old when he led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. Twenty-six is not much older than our seniors. When I talk to students about Dr. King, I always make a point to reference the impact he had in spite of his youth. The inspirational way he spoke and the open, caring, inclusive approach he tried to encourage others to follow. He was 34 when he led the March on Washington, and 36 when he led the Selma March two weeks after “Bloody Sunday.” And sadly, he was assassinated when he was just 39. All of it points to the fact that each of us can have an impact on the world in a rapid period of time and at a very early age.

We talk at times at School about the difference between “intent and impact.” I am sure there were moments in his mind and in the minds of those who were following him when his intent was simply to end the Jim Crow laws. He wanted to stop the legal harassment of African Americans who simply wanted to live in peace, with the same rights that all Americans had been promised as part of the American dream. So as we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the future, I hope our families have the opportunity to discuss Dr. King’s legacy at home and realize that we all can serve others and that we all can make a difference.

Since I love history, I enjoy reading various speeches given by famous people. It helps me better understand moments in our past. I believe Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail is one of the greatest testaments to his calm and direct way of confronting the issues that were happening at that time. In my Psychology class, I always end the semester showing the video, “A Time for Justice.” The video is a chronicle of the civil rights movement, and Dr. King, while in it, is not the lead character. This video shows some of the worst in human behavior, but it also shows some of the best, as people of all racial backgrounds sat at lunch counters, marched on the streets, rode among the Freedom Riders, and endured the violence and the challenge of those difficult times. And ultimately, they changed the world!

I also hope all of you at some point have the chance to visit The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. It has an incredible collection of artifacts and thought-provoking information. And while it touches on the tragedies of the past, it also highlights some of the incredible successes and triumphs of great Americans. In the fall, a group of us were in Memphis for a conference and had the opportunity to visit the National Civil Rights Museum that has been built in the Lorraine Motel, the location where Dr. King was assassinated. A brief but powerful presentation takes you through the history of African Americans in this country and the civil rights movement. This experience is powerful and emotional. I encourage anyone with interest in this aspect of history to visit it because you will learn an enormous amount of information on this critical topic.

So again, I hope all of us continue to take time, at every age level, to share with our children how important it is for them to be thoughtful, respectful to others, and to rely on our core values. Help them realize that we can all be of service to others and that each of us can change the world!

Some of my favorite quotes from Dr. King are:

  •  “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
  • “The time is always right, to do what it is right.”
  • “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
  • “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’
  • “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

While the holiday is behind us, the values, lessons, and commitment toward and for others are always with us and ahead of us. Stay warm and I look forward to seeing you at School.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster