Thank goodness for great conversations, as they provide wonderful opportunities for perspective.
Each year I meet with all of our faculty and staff to check on how things are going and to get their perspectives about a number of things. Today I had one such meeting, and the conversation landed on the topic of the staying power of values. It was one of those wonderful moments. This person indicated that his department had created their own mission aligned with the School’s and that he had begun to wonder whether our values were ones that would be as significant in thirty years as they are today. I was curious and asked him why he had chosen thirty years as a timeline when everyone seems to plan strategically for only five years into the future. He explained that he felt our responsibility was to ensure that our values had such strength that they would still resonate many years after we had gone.
I couldn’t have agreed more, and I told him that the conversation reminded me of a passage that spoke to the notion of planning for those to come. The Athenian Oath, taken by young men in Ancient Athens as they came into adulthood, has a strong message:
We will never bring disgrace to this our City by an act of dishonesty or cowardice.We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the City both alone and with many.We will revere and obey the City’s laws, and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught.We will strive increasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty.Thus in all these ways we will transmit this City, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.
While there is an importance to thinking about where we want to be in five years and planning strategically to reflect this, we also have an obligation to ensure that we are considering the even longer term. It is vital to remind ourselves that our mission and focus must be with the goal of continually making St. Clement’s even better than it already is. This is the assurance of ongoing school improvement- so that we may create and pass on a School truly ‘greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.’
After all, whose future is it anyway?