Landon's opening day Convocation ceremony featured speeches from Head of School Jim Neill and Student Council President Kevin ’24 that focused on the year ahead. Here are lightly edited transcripts of those remarks.
Kevin ’24, Student Council President
I hope that you all have enjoyed our remarkably long summer as much as I have! I also hope you all are just as excited as I am for this historic school year! With the brand-new campus, everyone in this amphitheater holds a special opportunity to spark new meaningful traditions.
Our senior motto this year, chosen by the prefects, is “Renew the Den.” Our motto strives to connect the ideas of renewal and one big community. The theme of renewal emphasizes the need to keep the traditions that Landon is built upon, but also to build new ones to continue to push Landon forward.
In terms of the Den, that pertains to the community as a whole: Lower, Middle, and Upper School. With the new campus, all three divisions are closer than ever. As an Upper School we are extremely excited to connect more and more with the Lower and Middle School bears. When I was walking through the new Boehly Upper School last week I was in awe. These facilities that we have are the best there are.
I would be remiss if I did not say thank you to all the donors and everyone who has made this project happen on a tactical level, especially Mr. Neill. The work you have put into and continue to put into this project and our school is incredible and all of us are so thankful for that.
Now today is a happy day as it is the first day we get to really use our brand-new campus; however, today is also a day that holds great sorrow for many of us here, and Americans nationwide. 9/11 is one of the most horrific events that this country has witnessed. Shock, sadness, fear, and anger are all emotions that ran through the minds of families as they watched the news that day.
I say this not to bring sadness upon such a happy day for us, but to emphasize that what we have is limited. For us seniors, we have around nine months left. For the Lower Schoolers here, it might feel like you have an eternity left at Landon, but before you know it you will be sitting out here, as a senior on your *last first* day of school, wondering how time could fly by so fast.
I urge us to really come together this school year. Let's rally around each other and embrace the brotherhood that we have here. If and when we do, the things we will accomplish will be remarkable. Thank you all, let's have a great year, and GO BEARS.
Jim Neill, Head of School
Good morning and welcome to the 2023-24 school year, our 95th here at Landon.
I hope all of you had rejuvenating and happy summers. It is an exciting time of renewal here at 6101 Wilson Lane and I hope all of you are ready to get started.
I also think I would be remiss if I did not note that this school year starts on a day significant to our country’s history, September 11 - 9/11 - a day that in 2001 was a generation-changing moment of tragedy, loss, and change. May we as a community find ways to move past the fear and loathing that marked that occasion, and instead, as we teach here at Landon, shape a future marked by respect, kindness, and belonging – a future of hope and human connection.
I see this tradition of gathering to start the year as a fitting way to begin, as our endeavor is a shared one. For those who are new to Landon, I say a hearty welcome; to the rest of you I say welcome back. Whether you are a 10-Year Senior or a third grader, you are beginning an experience that is new.
Today we launch a new year, and in that acknowledge our purpose, for we are here for a reason. Namely, to challenge and help prepare you boys for a complex, broader world. We need your best and full selves, your ability to think, your living out of ethical values, your dedication – and we are all here, together – to remind ourselves of our commitment to these things. We are here to create a place of belonging, one where you can grow and where we respect each person as an individual and acknowledge all of us collectively as a part of the whole. We are all Bears, part of a community that supports and celebrates one another through our failings and achievements.
We are here to help you boys become the moral, thoughtful, and courageous leaders our world so desperately needs. And in that we are here to challenge you and hold the bar high, for nothing but a high bar will do when it comes to such goals and ambitions. It is a great honor and privilege to be a part of such a community of character and excellence. And I think it is important to name that so that we never take it for granted, so that we are sure to recognize it by doing all we can to represent Landon well in all we do and to bring this place to life each and every day, and ask each other to do the same.
It truly is an exciting time to be at Landon. As Kevin and the Seniors have articulated with their motto for the year, Renew the Den, this is a time of new beginnings. The start of the school year is always a fresh start, and this is true in unique ways this year as we have dramatically renovated and added to our campus, as well as reorganized and relocated the Divisions. There is great privilege in being the first who live into new spaces and ways of doing things, and we show an appreciation for all we have here by abiding by the core values and living out the real responsibility that comes with that. I should add that we should all expect it to take a little time to settle into the new spaces as we get used to new ways of doing things here at school, and that’s okay.
As I shared with the faculty at our back-to-school meetings, we can also make this time of renewal extend well beyond beautiful new facilities. While it certainly is a time of caring for and using our beautiful physical spaces in new ways, we can also think about this theme and moment of renewal more broadly, as a time of resetting and refreshing on multiple fronts. We can think of it as a time of recommitment to the community, the hard work, the values, and the character around which our mission is built.
We can think of this as an occasion to renew relationships and to create new ones.
As a time of really deciding to be our best and try our hardest in every endeavor we undertake.
A time of recommitting ourselves to doing the small things right as they accumulate and create a culture of excellence.
A time of being rightly assertive, confident, proud of the great work we do here – of what it means to be a Bear and wear Landon on our shirt or represent Landon on the field.
As a time of new standards and ways of doing things. By the way, that includes treating our time at school as hours where we are really present to one another and not staring at cell phones. A time of doubling down on our policy of keeping cell phones out of the school day and renewing our commitment to one another.
We can think of this as a time of making new traditions and energizing the many great ones we already have here. And to that point I’d like to do just that: start a new tradition with our Seniors by distributing these lapel pins. When they graduate, the Seniors will hand off these pins to the next Senior class, a gesture that builds on the legacy of connections at Landon.
To put it briefly, we can each of us find ways today and throughout this year, in all we do, to Renew this Den. Be sure you do your part.
I’m extremely excited for the year ahead. Let’s get started on this good work.