Director’s Remarks – Lowell’s Comments at the Upper School Assembly

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In a show of support, the faculty and staff lined up behind Director Lowell Libby as he delivered the remarks below:

Joined by a sizable contingent of your mentors, I am going to conclude today’s assembly by reflecting on the state of our country in the aftermath of the executive order issued last Friday. Raise your hand if you know to what I am referring. (The vast majority of students raised their hands.) For those of you who don’t know about the order, it banned travel from seven majority Muslim nations to the United States.

Despite significant publicity, there is certainly much that I do not know about this executive order. I don’t know for sure what it was intended to do or how it was intended to work. I don’t know what its long term effects will be or whether or not it will ultimately be ruled legal or constitutional by the courts. There have been massive protests across the country against the ban, but I don’t know if those protests express the viewpoints of a solid majority of Americans or a just a vocal minority. I certainly don’t know what is going to happen next or how history will eventually judge this moment in time.

But I do know that by focusing on seven majority Muslim nations, intended or not, the order invariably reinforces a dangerous idea that has been growing in recent years, which is that people of Muslim faith and especially those who are immigrants are somehow collectively a threat to American safety and American values.

Such damaging stereotypes are deeply troubling because any time a group of individuals is lumped together and labeled as a threat, that is not only profoundly unfair to the innocent but it also creates a justification in the minds of some to lash out against them. We saw that happen tragically last Sunday five hours away in Quebec City when a gunman walked into a Mosque and killed six people and wounded many others while they were praying. We saw it closer to home last Friday afternoon when four Casco Bay High School students were accosted at knifepoint and subjected to racial slurs while waiting for the bus after school. It happened a couple a weeks ago to one of your Muslim classmates when she was stopped on the street by a man who insulted her religion and told her to go back from where she came. That is hate speech. That is wrong.

And when one group is singled out like that, other vulnerable populations start to worry. Right now I know that some of you are feeling afraid for your own safety and for the safety and well being of your family and friends. As a school we obviously do not control world, national, or even local events, but we do control how we respond to them. Anyone of you who is feeling vulnerable right now should know that as a community, we all bear witness to your worries and stand solidly with you. You are loved and valued. Your lives definitely do matter. You are all at home at Waynflete.

Waynflete is made whole by drawing strength from the diversity of backgrounds, beliefs, experiences, and viewpoints that we each bring to school every day. I firmly believe that our country will transcend its current state of turmoil, distress, and division when we learn as a nation to do the same.

Until that time comes, know that your faculty, administrators, and staff are ready to support you in all of the ways that we can.

Thank you for listening.