by Bernie Noe, head of school
Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year everyone!
On behalf of the faculty, staff, and administration of the school, I wish all of you, grades 5 through 12, a positive, exciting, challenging, and terrific new school year.
It is just great to see you all back here! I hope you all had a great summer and are ready to get started!
There are 26 new faculty and staff members in the room this afternoon and I would like them all to stand and let us give them a warm welcome.
There are 162 new students in the audience this afternoon, spread throughout almost all grades, and I want you all to stand, wherever you are, and let us all give you a warm welcome. Our 162 new students come from 95 different schools, with 89 new students coming from public schools, 55 coming from private schools, 15 from parochial schools, and three from international, charter, or homeschools. Ten have moved here from out of state.
Collectively, all of you in this room this afternoon represent the breadth and depth of the metropolitan Seattle area (and a bit beyond). We have new students this year that moved here from as far away as Montana, North Carolina, and Hong Kong.
Your fellow students come from many different religious traditions and backgrounds. Among the 162 new students, 20 different languages are spoken. You also differ in age. Some of you are ten, others 15 and others 18. Some of you are literally in your first day at Lakeside School (sitting right here in front of me) and others of you are beginning your eighth, and final year, at the school.
Among those admitted this year there are many of you who have already made a difference in your community, even in the world, starting your own business selling glow in the dark shirts and handbags, placing 7th in the national K-6 chess championship, volunteering with the Coalition on Homelessness, and helping to make backpacks for homeless youth.
You have been characterized by those who recommended you for admission to Lakeside as empathic, kind, confident, inclusive, hardworking, gracious, collaborative, intellectually curious, openminded, personable, artistic, effusive, and thorough.
In summary everyone, you are a diverse student body in every regard – you are people of character, and are interesting, talented and motivated. We worked hard as a school to gather you all here so that you could share your interests, your dreams, your kindness, your patience, your humility and your talents with each other; so that you could learn from one another and from your teachers. We are all delighted that you are joining this school community.
And just in case any one of you is sitting out here this afternoon wondering whether or not you belong here, you absolutely do belong, you made the right choice, and we will all help you be successful in any way that we can.
This year we celebrate the 100th year of Lakeside School. The first class of students, 13 boys and two girls arrived on the Denny Blaine campus of the school in September of 1919. Woodrow Wilson was president; World War I had just ended and the Treaty of Versailles negotiations were underway in Paris. The very future of Europe was being decided and the new countries of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia being created. The American economy was booming and the roaring twenties about to begin. Seattle as a city was only 68 years old at the time, the first white settlers having arrived from New York in 1851. Cars were just coming into widespread use and radio was the only means of mass communication. Many roads in Seattle were not yet paved. First Avenue was dirt.
The man who founded Lakeside School, Frank Moran, wanted there to be a school where boys (Lakeside would not become a coed school until 1971) would receive an excellent academic education, where students would be considerate of one another and where living a life of integrity would be stressed. Mr. Moran did not believe in a lot of rules but rather expectations. And 100 years later academic excellence, consideration for others, and living a life of integrity are still the central tenets of our mission as a school.
In our first century we have graduated civic leaders, humanitarians, innovators, philanthropists, and professionals in virtually all the professions. Our alumni have served the world and made it a better plan for others, not just for themselves. They have worked to eradicate disease save wildlife around the world, protect the environment, lead this state and this city, start a multitude of businesses that pay their employees a living wage, be good parents and citizens. This city, this state, this country and the world are better for the work done by our alumni.
And now we begin the second century of the school’s existence, right now, today, as you all sit here and I thought I would begin the year by sharing with you all what I believe you will need to thrive as human beings and contribute positively to the world over the next 50 to 80 years. Most of you will live the majority of years of the school’s second century. Seniors, in the year 2100 you will be 98 or 99 years old, which might be the life expectancy by then! Personally. I am counting on some pretty immediate major medical breakthroughs!
So, given all that we now know about the future what will you need to thrive personally and professionally over the course of your lives?
First, you will need to know how to step back from all the change you will witness and experience over the course of your lives and accurately figure out what really matters in each situation you find yourself in. Not what just matters for you but what is important to learn from every situation. If I were you, I would start practicing that now. There will never be an ideal time to practice so you might as well get started. Step back and ask yourselves what really matters this year, this month, today. Go ahead, take a minute right now and think about what really matters. See if you can figure out what really matters to you as opposed to what sort of matters or what really doesn’t matter at all. Because whatever changes take place in the world in your lifetimes you will be OK if you know what really matters.
Getting good grades, making new friends, being a good person, supporting a cause. I hope these are some of what you might have come up with. Start every day doing this for two minutes – think about what really matters today.
For the first 14 years I worked at Lakeside I had the great pleasure and privilege of working with a man named TJ Vassar. TJ was the first African American student to enter Lakeside in 1964, after being a member of our first LEEP class. He was president of his class his senior year, captain of the football and baseball teams, and an all-round student leader. When T. J. returned to Seattle after college, he dedicated much of his career to improving public education as well as equity and opportunity throughout the city.
In 1981 he was elected to the Seattle School Board, and he served as president in 1985 and 1989 when Seattle was desegregating the public school system. He served on educational advisory boards, led workshops and seminars on human relations and cross-cultural communications. In 1983 he designed a strategic, comprehensive program to reduce the number of people of color incarcerated in Washington prisons,
He worked for the Seattle-King County Private Industry Council, managing its administrative services, while at the same time working as a volunteer with community organizations such as NAACP, Urban League, Central Area Youth Association, and Central Area School Council.
He returned to Lakeside in 1992 when we were still not a very diverse school and spent 22 years of his life making our school more diverse. He was a gracious, kind man who only saw the good in other people. He pushed people to change but never judged them. And because of T J’s efforts, more than those of any other single person, we are a diverse school today. TJ knew what mattered to him throughout his life: to create a more just and equitable world; he never lost sight of this goal and he had the courage and conviction to act on what mattered to him.
So, know what matters to you – now, today and throughout your lives. And act on your beliefs
Second, understanding that what really matters is not just about you. If you are really paying attention to what matters it will always be about you in relationship to others and what others need.
I am beginning my 21st year at Lakeside and for all of those years I have walked into McKay Chapel on the Upper School campus and walked past the portrait of Theodore A. McKay hanging on the left hand side of the door as you enter. I have read the plaque under the portrait a couple of times. Ted McKay graduated from Lakeside in 1938 and went off to fight in World War II when he was the age of seniors sitting here today. One of 13 Lakeside graduates who died in that war (and one of nearly 400 former Lakeside students who served), Ted was killed while serving in the Marines in the South Pacific, in Guam in 1944. Ted McKay, even at age 18, understood that fighting the hatred and discrimination against other races and peoples espoused by Adolph Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy is what really mattered to his generation, and to the world. And he had the courage to act on what he knew really mattered on behalf of others.
Hopefully none of you will ever be called to fight in a war but you will be called upon to know what really matters and to have the courage of your convictions once you know.
Third, understanding what really matters, and acting on it, will shape your lives, and the lives of others in positive ways even as the world changes dramatically around you.
In April of 1996, not that long ago really, Bill and Melinda Gates read a New York Times article about the number of children who were dying in the developing world from rotavirus, a disease that causes diarrhea and vomiting in children. In the developing world, the story read, between 800,000 and 1 million children died of it each year. They decided that such a statistic was intolerable and to use their resources to try to change this situation.
Because of the work of the foundation and the innovative researchers who develop rotavirus vaccines, about 215,000 children under five died from the disease in 2013. That is 75% fewer children than in 1996, the year of the New York Times article. Many millions of children’s lives have already been saved, and the foundation’s goal is to end entirely diarrheal-disease deaths in children under age five by 2030. Since they began working to eradicate polio in 1988, the annual number of polio cases has dropped by 99%. There were only 44 cases of polio, worldwide, in 2016. Their current work is to reach vulnerable children in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Bill and Melinda knew what mattered, and acted on it, and their lives and the lives of millions of others are better as a result.
Someone once asked Bill, “How does one begin to get involved in global health when the needs are so overwhelming, and he replied “Just pick a disease and do something.”
We are going to tell you over and over this year that you will graduate into one of the greatest periods of change in the world in the past two hundred years and it is true, you will. And we are going to tell you, and your parents and guardians, that we will prepare you to thrive in this period of change, and it is true, we will, or least do all that is humanly possible to do so. But as it was true for the first century of graduates of this fine school, it will also be true for all of you. You will have to decide what really matters in this world and like those who came before you, TJ Vassar, Ted McKay, and Bill and Melinda Gates, you will need the courage to act on your convictions once you know what matters, sometimes even at great cost to yourselves. In doing so you will thrive in your lives, even in a period of dramatic change. You find great meaning in your lives, and you will all contribute positively to the world.
I wish each and every one of you every success and joy this year in everything that you do and in sorting out what really matters.
The 2019-2020 school year everyone is officially opened!