Message from Rich Nourie, Head of School

Date: 01/18/2011


It was a bitterly cold, clear winter morning but it was warm and lively in the Meetinghouse as more than 300 members of our community and visitors from the Meeting and surrounding neighborhood filled the Meeting to begin our Martin Luther King Day of Service. It was a spirited group, with children and adults of every age, infants and toddlers to high school seniors and their teachers, parents and friends who buzzed with excitement to be together and to honor the memory of Dr. King.


I was moved by the themes of the day as I welcomed the group. I am struck that Dr. King’s vision and leadership matter so much today because, as much progress has been made in the past 40 years in many areas of human rights and dignity, we are yet living in a world where great suffering persists. We suffer, as the world always has, from violence, from anger, greed, oppression and injustice. We witness a world of unequal access to education, housing, health care, employment opportunities and to the criminal justice system. Poverty, dehumanizing conditions and human and natural disasters are persistent, painful experiences for far too much of the world, including much of our own country.


It is a similar world to the one Martin Luther King, Jr. encountered and it is his response that still profoundly inspires and points the way to a vision of Promised Land that is deeply rooted in many of our spiritual traditions. With uncommon clarity, strength and courage, Dr. King articulated a message grounded in faith, hope and love that resonates particularly strongly with the foundational values of our school community.


He had faith in a powerful vision of a world “rightly ordered” (as Quakers say) by love and justice, respect and human dignity, compassion and care. He had faith in our ability to respond from our deepest being to the world in this way, to understand ourselves for our true calling in this troubled world. He preached that we are inalienably grounded in a deep sense of justice and love even as we are tempted away at times from this path and that we are able to unlock so much potential for good in the world by being united in this courageous pursuit.


Dr. King had hope. He believed that love is more powerful than the transitory evils and sufferings of the world. That peace is our truest nature, dwelling in a living silence at the core of our being as a spiritual people. He believed in the self-evident rightness of justice and that hope, as Vaclav Havel has noted, is not optimism that all will be well, but an understanding that to stand with what is right, what is great, what defines our best dreams of who we can be is to be aligned with the eternal.


And Dr. King shared a vision of love as the ultimate strength to face the divisions, discord and suffering of our world. He believed that the non-violent assertion of truth and love could transform our world.


In sharing this vision, Dr. King was himself at peace and confident. He shared that he was afraid of no one, that he feared no evil. He knew that he would not see the end of this work, both foreshadowing his untimely death and sharing the truth that this work will see its end far beyond the days of any of our individual lives. The injustices and indignities of the world will continue among us and between us- that seems to be a part of our human condition that we perennially come to understand and face anew.


But in growing our capacity as communities to work together, to understand each other better, to find humane and just solutions to our problems, to understand that our fates are truly tied together--when we build these strengths and do the concrete work of making the world a better place, we bring true and valuable light to the world.


In the stories and pictures of yesterday’s myriad and very productive service projects in This Week at AFS, you will see some wonderful glimpses into a vibrant morning at AFS. I am grateful to Andrea Emmons, Deborra Pancoe, Rachel Kane, Julian Cruz and Dan Dratch for their leadership and organization for the day and to the many parent and faculty volunteers who led projects and contributed talents and resources. On a wider plane, I am grateful to be part of community whose daily mission aspires to the passion, confidence and broad vision that was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s positive response to a troubled world.