Please be seated. Good morning. Welcome to this beautiful and sacred sanctuary, and welcome to the Opening Ceremony at National Presbyterian School.
Thank you, Reverend Dunfee, for the opening prayer, and thank you, Shawn, for the traditional ringing of the opening bell—the same bell rung at the end of graduation by a 6th grader to conclude the year.
As we usher in the 2017-2018 school year, it is an honor to share words with you this morning, and my brief remarks are titled "A Book, An Image, and The Number One."
First, A Book. This book is called "Unselfie" by Michelle Borba, and the subtitle is "Why Empathetic kids succeed in our All-About-Me World." It was our faculty and staff summer reading book, and it is a riveting read. Unselfie speaks to the importance of character education, social and emotional learning, and a strong spiritual foundation, all areas where NPS excels. It was validating to read this book, and then energizing to talk about it with our faculty and staff during our meetings last week.
In discussing the book's message of selflessness and empathy with our faculty, I reflected on Paul's Letter to the Romans, which is a wonderful model for building community. Paul writes, "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if oprophecy, pin proportion to our faith; 7 if qservice, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching." Paul and Michelle Borba both underscore that there may be nothing more important than the example that we set, for that is the foundation of teaching others. How fortunate our NPS students are, then, to have such a talented, wise, and caring faculty that models civility, empathy, and love—and how fortunate our students are to have you as parents, for the example that you set, and for the blessings you bestow upon your children.
Second, An Image. This summer, the news was filled with images of disagreement and discord from Charlottesville and pain and anguish of those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and surrounding areas. When our faculty and staff met, we talked about educating children in the midst of this context, and we drew inspiration once again from Paul's Letter, which states, 'Live in harmony with one another" and "if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
The summer also brought stories of selflessness and support – of people lending a hand, showing their solidarity with others. For me, one recent image stands out. In this particular photo, there was a long, long line of people standing – the people looked weary, and in the background you could see water, and more water. They were in one of the areas hit hard by flooding after the hurricane. There were so many people that you couldn't see all of them in the frame. How long was the line? At least a quarter mile. Maybe a half-mile. Perhaps longer. The caption said, "What are these people doing standing in line? Are they waiting for food? Water? Shelter?" And then the caption ended with this clincher. "No, they are waiting in line to volunteer."
That image resonated with me as a poignant example of love, faith, and unity – people coming together amidst huge challenges, showing greater concern for others than themselves. In the face of such difficulty, we are reminded that God is with us and we are not alone. Psalm 46 reads: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
Third, the Number One. I would like to share a few numbers with you—with the last being number one - and then explain their significance. I even have some visuals, but I am not sure I have the skills to both hold them up and speak. I will try.
First, 55. 55 is the number of new students we have at NPS this year, nearly 20 percent of the student body. It is wonderful to have newcomers at our school, and I am confident that in this warm, loving, and inclusive NPS community, you – students and parents - will feel at home in no time. So that we may be certain to go out of our way to welcome you, may I ask our new NPS students and families to stand? Thank you...and welcome!
10 - 10 years ago, the National Presbyterian Child Care Center—also known as NIPSEY- opened on campus, and thus this fall marks the 10th anniversary. Many in this sanctuary attended NPCCC, which has been a big success. We congratulate NPCCC on 10 great years.
5 – NPS has five Core Values. Love, Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Safety. You will remember them because people around you – students, faculty, parents, alumni – will make sure that you do. Therefore, I don't think there is anything more that I need to say about them!
49 - This is the 49th school year of National Presbyterian School, which opened its doors two months after the American spacecraft Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. Our founders are very proud of the way the school has "taken off" – yes, that is a pun – and we are proud of it as well.
50 – National Presbyterian Church, NPC, is celebrating ITS 50th anniversary this fall. The cornerstone of the present day National Presbyterian Church was laid by former President Eisenhower on October 14, 1967. It makes sense that our school is not as old as this church, because NPS was founded as an educational mission of the church. While the school is not yet celebrating its 50th, we take great pride and joy in joining with NPC as it commemorates its 50th anniversary – what a great honor that is.
1 - My final number is the smallest. One. It is the smallest, but it is so important. We are one. One community, one school, in one main school building, on one campus. And we are one in partnership, unity, and togetherness with the church whose Sanctuary we are in now, National Presbyterian Church.
On the number one and the theme of community- which, you'll notice, has the word "unity" in it - the book Unselfie describes a small South Pacific island called Vanuatu, which Michelle Borba said is known as "the friendliest place on earth." The author writes, "After visiting their island, I can see why. Everywhere, residents greeted you with a sincere hello and a smile and seemed genuinely interested in you. Their friendliness was contagious, so you responded right back with a hello and a smile to a stranger. When I asked Vanuatu residents why they were so friendly, their answer was simple – because everyone else is."
I told our faculty and staff last week that that sure sounds a lot like NPS. And my charge to them is the same as my charge to you – why don't we give Vanuatu a run for its money, and let's all do our part to make NPS the absolute friendliest place that it can possibly be. And if we keep the number one in mind – one community, one family, one campus – we may do just that.
I look forward to joining with all of you—students, parents, faculty, church leadership—in making this a terrific school year at NPS.