Head of School Blog

Reflections and Deeper Conversations

When I began this week’s missive, I had hoped to congratulate all, particularly our seniors, on accomplishing the mission of our school: being globally oriented with a strong sense of community equipped to achieve excellence and to develop sound character in order to positively impact our world. You have been nothing less than incredible. Amid the fear-inducing pandemic and economic distress, you not only persevered, but you extended yourself to others and made a difference in our community. 

With our nation struggling, however, I feel compelled to focus my end-of-year remarks on the pressing issues of the day. Like all of you, I wrestle with questions like:

  • What is the cause of the inhumane treatment and killing of George Floyd? The larger issues?
  • What are protestors protesting, and how are their concerns similar to and different from other protests? To what extent do protestors appreciate the complexity of the issues and the limitations on potential solutions?
  • What are other perspectives on the incident, and in what evidence and interpretation are they grounded? How well do they seek to understand other perspectives?
  • What ought those who serve our institutions, communities, states and schools do? What ought we not do?

Then I turned to the harder questions--harder because they require personal reflection and action:

  • How does this maelstrom affect my words and actions as a father? As a citizen? As one who serves a school-community?
  • What does this mean for our ‘ohana and kaiāulu at LJA?

My thoughts on these issues, like yours, deserve a much broader and deeper conversation in order for us to act in ways that make our community a better place for all. In keeping with our mission of building a strong sense of community at LJA, we need to find our common ground and build on it. I commit to providing those forums for our community in the ensuing months.  

These won’t be the first or last conversations on the topic(s) but are among the immortal conversations that communities like ours must have as each generation seeks to construct its own understanding and to bring about positive societal change. For now, though, I humbly ask that you consider one person’s mana’o on why I believe that these concerns merit closer examination and action.

  • Empathy is a Virtue, is central to the attribute of Caring in our IB Learner Profile and is that which we should expect from ourselves, first, and others--including leaders--second.  I speak from a position of privilege and can never fully appreciate the humiliation and oppression that many others have and continue to experience in our land, so I am careful not to claim real understanding. I can, however, cite innumerable affronts that my students and colleagues from the Marine Corps, Trenton, Montgomery, Princeton, Kamehameha and Stamford experienced. I choose to stand with those who have been subject to all forms of oppression and abuse, and I will continue to support education and rectify past injustices through our work as a school.
  • Discrimination is a Vice, is antithetical to the idea that is America, and we have a duty to acknowledge and confront it at every turn. As a mentor of mine used to say, “Doing nothing is doing something.” When we permit discriminatory practices to persist, we are complicit in undermining one of the pillars of our democratic republic: that all are created equal and as such possess inalienable human rights. How do I, and how do we at LJA, discriminate against other worldviews or other’s experiences? What have I, and we, done to positively make a difference in our locality? I condemn the murder of George Floyd and others at the hands of those who seek to oppress--especially those who oppress on the basis on gender, color, age or creed--and I exercise my rights to advance the cause of equality in our community.
  • Repression, Certainly Oppression, is a Vice and only through the protection, if not encouragement, of free and responsible speech can our community be made stronger. For liberalism to thrive and for justice and fairness to advance, the exercise of responsible speech is essential. What have I, and we, done at LJA to create safe space for honest and deliberate conversation? What have we done to oppose repression in all of its forms? I condemn those who seek to stifle the expression of ideas, the lifeblood of our democracy, and will actively engage in community conversations around identity, race and class with an eye toward impact: strengthening diversity on campus and enhancing equity and inclusion in our community.
  • Trust is a Necessary Condition for Reconciliation and Restoration, and there must be a reconciliation with our past and present for us to move forward as individuals, as a school and as a community. I condemn the actions of those who undermine trust through the promotion of irresponsible, deceptive and hurtful speech, and I will promote transparency in our understanding of truth and means of reconciling differences and wrongs suffered. Where disagreement occurs or where fissures appear, I will openly engage and seek reconciliation and restoration of relationships as a community.

As the Constitutional Convention of 1787 came to a close, Benjamin Franklin noted that the chair from which George Washington presided over the convention had a sun carved into its splat. In his wry yet hopeful way, he commented, "I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was [a sun] rising or setting. But now I ... know that it is a rising ... sun."

Let’s kūkākūkā (talk story) as we move forward. We will be stronger for it.

A hui hou e mālama pono,

Earl Kim

Head of School