All-school assembly: January 7, 2021

Below is a letter from Head Jim Neill that was shared with the Landon community regarding events in Washington, D.C. on January 6 and programming at school the following day. The full video of our all-school assembly is also available below. 

I wanted to let you know about steps we took today at school in response to yesterday's wrongful, appalling, and terribly unsettling mob scenes at the U.S. Capitol that continue to dominate world news.

We started the day today with an assembly for our Upper and Middle School boys where I and the two leaders of our ethics program, John Bellaschi and Jen Dunfee, spoke with the community.  We have included a link to that assembly below if you wish to watch it.  The purpose was simply to come together, to reassure, and to recommit ourselves to and reiterate the importance of the values of this institution, values that were so glaringly absent in yesterday's storming of the Capitol.

Among our comments this morning, we noted that these events were categorically wrong, as well as a clear reminder that truth and honesty matter; that civility and integrity matter; that respect and decency matter; and that words — especially words that run counter to these principles — have real consequences.  We noted that the relevance of our school’s motto “by virtue and not by force” was on full display, as these rioters did essentially the opposite — resorting to force and displaying anything but virtue in an effort to dislodge democratic principles and values and to undermine long standing U.S. institutions.

We encouraged the community not to allow these small-minded and wrongful acts to dislodge us from working to advance our own mission of educating the next generation of leaders to be caring and responsible persons of character — to be thoughtful citizens who will show, to cite this month’s dual core values, courage and perseverance, in pursuing that which is honorable and true and righteous.

We also acknowledged that different community members were likely at different places in their processing of the events, based on, for example, the extent to which they had been immersed in the news coverage, based on where they live, or based on where their relatives may work in the city.  And importantly, we noted as a sign of hope that the business of the Congress had carried on afterwards — persevering through the chaos and concluding their work related to the electoral votes, which was why they were meeting in the first place.

Teachers to a greater or lesser extent will have spent time in classes today further speaking about yesterday's events, realizing that sometimes when events like this happen, it is most reassuring to be with your school mates and colleagues in community in a stable setting and to carry on as normally as possible.  So there will likely will have been a mix of some more regular classes and some where teachers and advisors pursued more discussion about the events. 

While some of the Lower School faculty may have chosen to have their boys participate in the assembly, the approach in the Lower School in general was different, given the age of the boys and our desire to be responsive to where they might be developmentally.  That said, Division Head Tara Montague asked homeroom teachers to facilitate conversations appropriately as they arose during Morning Meeting with a focus on benchmarking observed actions against our Code of Character.  To frame further discussion at home, Lower School families are encouraged to watch the link of this morning's assembly with their sons and reflect upon what this month’s dual core values, courage and perseverance, look like in action.  These types of conversations will also take place, as they always do, in the boys’ weekly ethics class with Ms. Dunfee. 

In the Upper School, we further set aside time at lunch for those who wished to talk more about this with Mr. Bellaschi, and we did the same in the Middle School with Ms. Duffy and Mr. Diaz.  Also in the Middle School, already scheduled advisories were another opportunity for discussion, all in the context of the norms for conversation we established earlier in the year.

I remain grateful to be a part of this community with all of you during what remains a time of historic challenge for our entire country and as each of us seeks to find how we can best advance our collectively held values and effect change for the good.

Thank you and please take care.


Jim Neill