In keeping with tradition, The Gunnery celebrated the formal start of the new school year, our 168th year, with Convocation on Friday, September 8. This event provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our past and the legacy of our founder, Frederick Gunn, as well as the chance to look forward and celebrate a new beginning.
The start of a new school year is also a time to look at the world around us and recognize that we are part of something larger than ourselves. Given the events that have recently taken place around the country and the world, I am reminded of a letter that Mr. Gunn wrote to Abigail in 1847, three years before they started The Gunnery and at a time when Gunn was living in exile as a result of his unpopular views on the question of abolition.
Charlottesville, Virginia, was back in the news recently, as celebrities and ordinary citizens continue to react to the violence that erupted there the weekend of August 11-13. The Dave Matthews Band organized a “Concert for Charlottesville” on Sunday, September 24 at the University of Virginia that was promoted as “an evening of music and unity.” The concert raised funds for victims, their families, first responders and “organizations devoted to the promotion of healing, unity and justice locally and nationwide.” The same evening, a story aired on CBS’s “60 Minutes” titled “Divided,” which featured a focus group discussion moderated by Oprah Winfrey that illustrated how politically divided we have become as a nation. Among the many controversial topics discussed by more than a dozen participants, Charlottesville emerged as one of the most contentious issues.
Initially, I struggled to know how to respond to what happened in Charlottesville. No. That’s not accurate. It was (and is) easy to respond to white supremacy and anti-semitism in action: they are awful and grotesque. I reject them unequivocally and I hope that the people I know and love in the world do, too. Even more awful are the actions of James Fields Jr. — his decision to drive a car into a group of people, injuring 19 and killing Heather Heyer. I’m glad the police caught him and that he will face justice.
That’s the easy part — the part that I don’t think there should be any question about, whether from me or anyone at our school.