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Welcome from Head

Thoughts on this year's change maker theme, "Crisis and Opportunity": 

Three years ago, before the pandemic, I wrote to our community and included a quote about summer, and how it’s a time when “laziness finds respectability.” I followed with a statement about slowing down, doing a little less, and reflecting a little more. I wanted people to stay in the present and to “rejoice in what we have.” 

I’m certain now, as I was then, that being mindful of the present is the best way to live a successful and fulfilling life. Of course, this isn’t news to most, and it’s an idea that has been espoused and practiced by millions for centuries. It is a concept that our 2022-23 change maker, Thich Nhat Hanh, made his life’s work, his life’s study.

Thich Nhat Hanh was a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his teachings and writings on mindfulness and peace. His work, based on the principles of nonviolence, led him to international recognition. Martin Luther King Jr. credits his public opposition to the Vietnam War to Thich Nhat Hahn and his influence led King to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Since that time, Thich Nhat Hahn, also known as “Thay”( teacher), authored dozens of books which have sold over two million copies in the U.S. alone. His reach is hard to quantify.

This past year, I gave our staff a copy of "Work: How to Find Joy and Meaning in Each Hour of the Day," though I didn’t know Thich Nhat Hahn was in the running for change maker. I felt the book displayed the simple monk’s wisdom brilliantly, and our teachers would love how his ideas, grounded in the real world, would help them see that no moment is ever lost, even if we forget to act mindfully. The next moment is another opportunity to compassionately start again.

This idea - the power of choice - is at the heart of what SEL teaching is all about. We teach children they have options, they have agency, and they can always begin anew. We all can. Thay’s key teaching was that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment, the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world. 

Thich Nhat Hahn has many well-known quotes and sayings. Here is one quote from Thay I am particularly fond of. It involves two of my favorite things: kids and smiles.

“If a child smiles, if an adult smiles, that is very important. If in our daily lives, we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind. ”

Regardless of what may be going on in our country or our world, I am hopeful you, too, will notice the present moment. Thay felt it “is the substance with which the future is made. The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.”


Jim Eagen
Head of School
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