Dr. John Botti, a former Landon Associate Head of School, Ethics Chair, and teacher-coach-mentor, returned to campus to deliver a speech on inclusivity for the annual Boiardi Forum for Ethical Reflection. The all-school assembly is held in memory of alumnus and lacrosse star George Boiardi ’00 who passed away in 2004. It celebrates the values Boiardi exhibited as a Bear at Landon and at Cornell University.
Botti said to the students and faculty present, “If we want to be the kind of people who make the world better in big ways, if we want to be heroic and significant and proud of the things we do for others--well, I think we can start by seeing the chances for inclusivity that are immediately in front of us. The risks for inclusion that you take locally will make global risks for inclusion more possible. Big doors, guys, swing on small hinges.”
In this Q&A, Botti, now Head of School at The Browning School (NY) and a current Landon trustee, explains the goal of his address and what it was like to return to Landon’s campus after six years in New York City.
Q: What message did you share with the boys during your speech?
A: I tried to share that I think inclusion is a big concept that can play out in lots of ways. Sometimes we can think of inclusion as big structural efforts, and those are important, but there are also things we can do at the level of culture, at the level of individual relationships, and that if we’re willing to be curious about other people and engage, then we’re creating cultures of inclusivity that I think will ultimately serve larger efforts of justice and belonging.
Q: What was your reaction to being asked to speak at the Boiardi Forum?
A: Well, I wondered if John (Bellaschi, Director of Ethics, Service, & Leadership) had called the wrong person. Once I got past that – it is one of the greatest professional honors of my life. Having had a chance to work on the forum when I was at Landon, knowing what George and the Boiardi family did and have done for the school and the way in which they’re protecting an essential set of conversations, it was incredible for me.
Q: What is it like being back at Landon? You left for Browning six years ago...
A: It’s so much fun. Anything that I’ve been able to do as an educator has happened because of this place. And to see not just the space, but also the people, and so many of the people that I was lucky enough to learn from and be friends with are still here. That they would welcome me and think well of my return and be so generous, it feels like coming home to a place that will always be really important to me.
Q: You spoke specifically about inclusivity, but you also spoke more generally about Landon’s core values and the culture here. What did you share?
A: While I was here, I thought I appreciated it. Since I’ve departed, I think I appreciate even more the degree to which Landon puts not just a rhetorical but an active and programmatic emphasis on ethics and character and values -- what it means to live well among other folks. It’s something that is easy to put on a poster. It’s much more difficult to live well. That Landon allocates so much of its time, so much of its resources, so much of its relational effort toward these things – I think it’s just a really admirable way of trying to live its mission.