On September 1, 2020, the Concord Academy community gathered to begin the 2020–21 school year — not in the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel, but via videoconference, from homes near and far. While the virtual setting marked the start of a school year unlike any other, the themes of this year’s Convocation were familiar yet more relevant than ever. Speakers called for mutual commitments to listen closely and see one another fully, even and especially in online spaces.
Preludes by Bach, played by Melody Chen ’21 on cello and Adam Winograd ’21 on violin, set the tone for the occasion. Head of School Rick Hardy warmly welcomed 107 new students and seven new faculty and staff members, as well as returning students and adults. He grounded the community in the school’s mission, which, he said “calls us to live up to high standards of behavior, to join together in the work of fostering community, and to be guided by ideals for our world rather than narrow self-interest.”
In recorded remarks, Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65, president of the Concord Academy Board of Trustees, acknowledged the extraordinary moment in history in which the school year is beginning. Inviting students to imagine themselves in the Chapel, she spoke about what the building stands for: “listening, truly listening, to one another. … We attend to one another with mutual respect, with the kind of care and attention that I wish we could see more of in the world.”
Shutzer reflected on a “magical” teacher who saw, validated, and encouraged her. CA, she said, is the kind of place inspiring mentorship can take place. As Shutzer said, “As we navigate the challenges of a global pandemic and dedicate ourselves to anti-racism, our commitment to the values in our mission — common trust, empathy, equity, and integrity — is truly remarkable.”
Student Head of School Zahaan Khalid ’21 spoke about the work that the student council has been doing to “keep CA ‘CA’” in a virtual format. “We have the ability and opportunity to make the most of what we have right now,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we can overcome, this stronger than ever. I have already seen a majority of my grade come together like never before in the beginning of August.”
In her livestreamed Convocation address, Laura Twichell ’01, director of community and equity, questioned what these unprecedented circumstances ask of us. “Will I be safe?” she asked. “Am I being seen and heard? Where can I find stability when so much is unsettled? What is, or should be, the new normal?” Addressing the division and isolation that are the United States’ current national narrative, she challenged all members of the community to “reach out, show up, and allow yourself to be pulled in.”
Twichell encouraged us to honor ourselves and one another, to “embrace the messy nuance of living.” She asked us to be open to “unlearning” our biases and prejudices. And she urged us to grow as individuals.
After sharing a poem, “Something You Should Know,” by Clint Smith, Twichell offered the CA community gratitude, and a hope. “In building community, we make ourselves vulnerable,” she said. “The risk of exposure is inherent in connection. I hope for us that the vulnerability so many of us feel helps weld us into trust, and that in existing in these vulnerable spaces, we find deeper connections than we might have found without them.”
Read the speakers’ remarks in full.
Convocation speaker Laura Twichell ’01, director of community and equity
Fay Lampert Shutzer ’65, president of the Board of Directors
Zahaan Khalid ’21, student head of school