Why civility matters

During his senior year at Landon, Bilal Wurie '17 shared the following remarks about the importance of civility with his Upper School peers at the 2016–17 Code of Character-signing assembly. Landon's Civility Code (driven by respect) and Honor Code (driven by honesty) together make up the Code of Character, which each student signs and pledges to live by at the outset of each school year. Bilal was a senior prefect, or on-campus ethical leader; the winner of the 2016 Harvard Prize Book Award given to a junior who displays ethical, academic and non-academic excellence; and the winner of the Carroll Mercer Marbury Award for tenacity at Commencement. He now attends Harvard University.

What does it mean to be civil? Webster's Dictionary defines civility as "formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech."

Landon breaks it down to three simple things. Respect yourself, people around you, and school. Respect is what drives the Civility Code.

Respecting yourself means holding yourself to the highest standard. Play by the rules, whether you're in the classroom, at home doing homework, or on the field in a game. Hold your head up high and carry yourself with dignity wherever you go.

Second, respect those around you: teachers, peers, coaches, etc. If you've heard of the golden rule, it sums it up pretty well: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Last, respect your school. Show pride in your school, not just during football games but by doing the little things, like picking up after your trash or dirty dishes, or dirty clothes in the locker room. A lot of hard work goes into making sure we are taught well, fed well, and have a clean campus. We need to show our appreciation for the efforts so many people make for us every day.

So why is it important to have respect in our community? Mutual respect is important because it: 1) creates a stronger, tighter community; and 2) makes everyone feel welcome and shows that we value one another as individuals.

Civility is applied to every aspect of life: interacting with family, with girls, in the job environment, and everywhere else. Whether you're at the food court or in a movie theater, civility is what sets a great person apart from a good one.

Little things add up over time. Sit with a new guy at lunch, or offer him a spot at your table. Look someone in the eye and give them a firm handshake. Thank your teacher after class or your coach after practice. We might not realize it at the time, but little things like these add up to create a stronger, better community.

Lastly, we need to pay attention to what we say, how we say it. In this day and age, a lot of ignorance and hatred is being perpetuated throughout the world, through media, politics and pop culture. We need to make sure we rise above it. A simple word or action can affect people in ways we never imagine, both positively and negatively. Listen to what others have to say and try to see things from their perspective. You don't have to agree with everyone, but process what they say completely before you respond. If each of us makes the effort to engage with one another in a civilized way, we will be able to transform from a good community into a great one. Thank you, and go Bears.