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The spirit of good citizenship

July 2021

The mantle of citizenship extends beyond belonging to a place. A good citizen strives to make meaningful contributions to her community and the world.

 

“Harpeth Hall develops responsible citizens…”

— Harpeth Hall Mission Statement

The word “citizen” encompasses many characteristics. In its broadest sense, the word reminds us that we are all part of something larger than ourselves — a family, a neighborhood, a community, a school, a city, a country. In turn, when we think of being a good and responsible citizen, we each imagine a different set of attributes and actions. A good citizen may be relied upon to engage in the community and act responsibly while enjoying the freedom that comes with belonging to a group of people with a common purpose.

As we nurture our youngest students as citizens, they naturally understand that they are part of something larger than themselves. Just sitting in the Frances Bond Davis Theatre at an all-school assembly tethers them to a school community committed to creating a future of possibilities and purpose. The girls wear their uniforms with pride, fully understanding that they now belong to this place, and their earnest desire to do their part is untarnished.  

As our students mature and move through middle and upper school, the mantle of citizenship extends beyond belonging to their school to assuming the responsibility of leaving the school better for future classes. The Class of 2021 led and inspired us all during this pandemic year by helping us focus more on what was, rather than what was not. With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, I am reminded that this class chose a flagpole as their parting gift to the school. They wanted to complete the expansion of the northwest corner of campus, and in the words of their class president, Lela Hooper, “The flagpole is a sign of not only spirit, but unity.” She continued, “The flagpole will also serve as a prominent yet permanent reminder of our support for the school and maintaining the amazing school spirit we reached this year.“

That brings me back to our school mission: “Harpeth Hall develops responsible citizens who have global perspectives and make meaningful contributions to their communities and the world.” In these words, we cannot help but think of our very own Alex Walsh ‘20. Alex will swim in Tokyo this month and from this time forward will have three words spoken or written whenever she is mentioned, “Alex Walsh, Olympian.” In these games, she will not only represent her country as a citizen of the United States, but she will represent her state, her city, and her school community. Her efforts shine through her athletic accomplishments and the meaningful legacy she builds for future generations of students who aspire to do something great. She is, as a citizen, contributing in good and significant ways on the world stage and to our school. We are honored to cheer her on and to feel in some small way that we, as members of this community of girls and young women, are now part of something larger than even we can comprehend.

Though not many students can lay claim to the incredible honor of representing our country on an Olympic team, each one of us can lay claim to being a citizen of the Harpeth Hall community, a citizen of the city of Nashville during a boom time of growth and change, and a citizen of our country as we continue to navigate through the historic challenges of 2020 and 2021. 

My hope for our students as citizens is simple. The Irish author and philosopher Charles Handy said it best, “Citizenship is the chance to make a difference to the place where you belong.” Through our strength in being a community where girls belong and where girls are front and center, it is my greatest honor to watch as our well-informed, thoughtful, and responsible citizens emerge.

Happy Fourth of July! 

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