On October 31, 2023, Head of School Mary Halpin Carter delivered the following address to St. Luke's Upper School (video below). 

It has been a tough few weeks for many of us and the world at large. Devastation and suffering continue in Israel and Gaza. And last week, more lives were shattered when a gunman committed a mass shooting in a quiet Maine town.

Innocent and good people, be they Israelis, Palestinians, or Americans — were taken suddenly and brutally from their families. Too many were just beginning life. How can we process the injustice inflicted upon these cherished members of our collective human family? How can we stop the spread of hate and intolerance? How can we turn fear into strength?

I want to share something I’ve learned over many years: 

When the world feels like it has come off its axis, and things seem out of control—that is when we need to hold tightly to our centering beliefs. We cannot change what has occurred, but we must believe we can change what is to come. We can root ourselves and find stability in our mission to become well-educated, capable, and moral leaders who will go forth to serve honorably and lead with humanity. You and I—every one of us—can serve our mission and the world right now. Today

Spread Kindness, Reject Hate

There are people, some right here at home in neighboring towns, who are giving into the worst of human nature by deciding to reject our shared humanity. They have been posting and saying awful things meant to alienate and belittle other people. We have the power to diminish the pain of such actions by standing up for anyone being targeted. 

By not dismissing hate as a joke and by reminding ourselves that we share the responsibility to spread kindness, compassion, and respect while rejecting and calling out hate. If you see something you know is wrong, please tell your advisor, Ms. Nelson, or any trusted faculty and staff member. 

This is the only path to creating a school where you and everyone around you feel safe and able to learn. This is the only way to go to sleep at night, knowing you did not stand by while someone else suffered. 

If you are feeling alone and isolated, please reach out to Ms. Nelson, Ms. Myles, or any faculty or staff member. You are not alone. We can help support you and will listen so we understand what you need.

Use Your Voice for Good

I want to tell you about something uplifting. I read a news story about two women who became the change they wished to see in the world. One is Muslim with Palestinian roots, and one is Jewish with deep ties to Israel. The two lead NewsGround, which is a  nonprofit fellowship program in Los Angeles. The goal is to bring peace-loving Muslims and Jews together. These people—despite tremendous differences and a painful past—know we are all one family, and they seek to build trust, respect, and community. 

This is just one example of people deciding to use their voices for good.  

After the violence erupted in Israel and Gaza, this is what NewsGround posted:

“In this moment, it is vital that we reach out to each other. 

In this moment, we must try our hardest to see each other, 

to lean in and listen to each other’s story and pain.”  

Hold Tight to Kindness

And I will add to that beautiful message that we must Be kind

Kindness defines St. Luke’s - if we make it so. Hold on tight to kindness. Without it, who are we? With it, we are One St. Luke’s. We believe that every community member is of the highest value and has an obligation to treat everyone they encounter with kindness, curiosity, and respect. We represent diverse perspectives, beliefs, and experiences, and it is our challenge and privilege to find ways to always be unified by our values, even when we experience divided thinking.

Our work at SLS is to create a culture where people feel they can enter the conversation with diverse viewpoints. We should civilly disagree and assert our own points of view on any issue—be it a war, gun control, or any other complex challenge. We are not supposed to always agree, but we must regard every person we speak with and about as equally valuable.

Strive to Be Your Biggest and Best Self

I want to lift up the Upper School students, faculty, and staff who attended the panel about the Hamas-Israel war. We modeled that we come together and listen. The goal is not agreement—there is room to disagree, even passionately, while still regarding the person you disagree with as fully deserving of respect.

As St. Luke’s students, you already know that dehumanizing anyone dehumanizes us all. Cruelty is the polar opposite of being our Big Selves—it is so small that it diminishes everything St. Luke’s stands for. I take great comfort knowing each of you has the courage to lead away from cruelty using your strong moral compass

Your teachers, your families, and I know you will strive to be your biggest and best selves through these and other difficult times ahead. Life presents many challenges and moments of utter heartbreak. But you can decide—now and for the rest of your lives—to lead with humanity. You can also decide to develop a peaceful world. Many philosophies and religions share the belief that being peaceful in your own conduct and life is the starting point for a peaceful society. Please realize that taking the time to find peace in your mind and heart is very important to the world. Peaceful people spread peace. 

Let’s take one brief, quiet moment together right now to center ourselves as we work to find peace.

Thank you for using your good hearts and fine minds to spread love, respect, and care for all wherever you go. I wish each of you— and every individual across the globe—peace.


Watch Dr. Carter's Upper School Address

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