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Vital work

By
Principal Bill Rawson ’71; P’08
May 6, 2019
Exeter Principal Bill Rawson

As you read this issue of the Bulletin, I hope you find it inspiring to see the latest evidence of both the joy and sense of purpose that comes with being a member of the Exeter community.

It is a great pleasure to be part of a community where high academic achievement is valued, where students accomplish as much outside the classroom as in, where exploration and self-discovery are what we do for fun, and where the spirit of non sibi runs deep.

These pages offer some wonderful examples: a robotics club formed by students who share a common purpose to give back to others; budding social entrepreneurs who craft business solutions to real-world problems; and seniors who design their own independent study electives to explore feminism through the arts.

I am amazed by the extraordinary work being done by our students, and by the passion they bring to these endeavors. To provide these young people with the opportunity to thrive in a community where everyone feels a true sense of belonging — that is the Exeter we strive for every day.

At a recent assembly, I told students, “We don’t wait until later to be the people we want to be. You have to be the people you want to be today, and that starts not with how you relate to your closest friends — it’s how you relate to everybody.” I urged them to respect the dignity and equal worth of every person within our community, adult and student.

To provide these young people with the opportunity to thrive in a community where everyone feels a true sense of belonging — that is the Exeter we strive for every day.”

Our students do this work in the Harkness classrooms, in their dorms, or on the stage or playing fields. In January, during Exeter’s annual MLK Day, three PEA alumnae led workshops designed to break down differences and deconstruct cultural narratives. That same month, MacArthur Fellow and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson delivered an impassioned Henry Bragdon Fellow assembly talk, urging students to engage with issues of social justice, saying: “Your hope is your superpower.” At the conclusion of Mr. Stevenson’s remarks, I offered students a copy of his memoir, Just Mercy. The response was overwhelming. We ordered an additional 600 copies to meet the demand.

It is wonderful and also serious business to renew our commitment each year to the mission of our school, and to live up to our responsibilities in a rapidly changing world. We must prepare our students for what John and Elizabeth Phillips in the Deed of Gift called “the great end and real business of living,” and reconsider each year what it means to help our students grow in knowledge and goodness and thereby lay the surest foundation for usefulness to humankind. John and Elizabeth Phillips expressed a certain urgency about the school’s mission in the Deed of Gift. The urgency of our mission is as great today as ever.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the spring 2019 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.