Dana Weston ’00 was the 2017 Erik L. Bond ’77 Lecture Speaker on February 8. While on campus, she spoke during an Upper School assembly, visited a genetics class, met with 8th-grade advisories and had lunch with students.
Ms. Weston used the MICDS Mission Statement as inspiration for her remarks, in particular, the passage that reads, «Now, more than ever, our nation needs responsible men and women who can meet the challenges of this world with confidence and embrace all its people with compassion.» She said, «I realized that it is more than a mission for this incredible institution, these are truly words of wisdom for life.» She went on to share lessons she has learned over the course of her life in the context of the «4 Cs»: confidence, compassion, courage and connection. At the end of each point, she asked the audience to assert their commitment to living lives that embody these «4 Cs.» Following are excerpted remarks:
«Confidence comes from knowing your worth and understanding your strengths. Stand up for your rights and the rights of those around you. Nobody should ever fight harder for you than you fight for yourself. My confidence stems from a deeply ingrained knowledge of what I am inherently worth. My confidence does not come from being the best at everything. It comes from clearly knowing the unique skills that I bring to the table. Will you be boldly confident in who you are and fully own your rightful place in this world?
«Compassion is more than a feeling – it is a response, an action. Compassion moves you to place your own self-interest to the side and prioritize the needs of others. When I am asked by early careerists what is the single greatest skill that they can cultivate to be a successful leader my response is always to cultivate compassion. Do you have a heart for others that will lead you into action and into serving the community around you?
«Courage. What will you do in the face of difficulties? How will you respond when the path is not easy?» Ms. Weston spoke of her decision to wear her hair naturally, even though she was advised by mentors that doing so might limit professional opportunities. «I chose to be my authentic self with faith and courage,» she said. «Your journey in life will not be easy – from the difficult moments you have already experienced individually and as a community to those that will surely come, you will have a choice and you must choose courage. Why? Because you owe it to those coming after you. You will be dismissed or counted out for reasons that have nothing to do with your abilities, but perhaps you will remember that Bond Lecture speaker who stood before you as proof that all things are indeed possible if you choose courage. More importantly, maybe that path before you will be a little bit easier because those who came before courageously shattered ceilings, kicked down doors and tore down walls. Given the privilege of my education here, the opportunities I was afforded afterward, and the access I now have to spaces that have historically been closed off to people who look like me, I owe you that. This responsibility also lies with you. The students in the Middle and Lower School are trusting you to shatter those ceilings, kick down those doors, and tear down those ceilings for them. Can you choose courage in the face of challenges, when those around you are shrinking, can you stand tall, can you blaze new trails?»
When speaking about the fourth «C» – Connection – Ms. Weston shared that hospitals are perhaps the best examples of the power of connection, noting that no single person could keep a hospital running, but «together, we make miracles happen every single day.»
In conclusion, Ms. Weston referenced this year’s school-wide theme of civility. «I would like to remind you that civility is more than holding a conversation. When you are truly connected as a community, you are intentional about how you hold that conversation. You must disagree without disconnecting, argue without alienating, challenge without condemning and oppose without offending. Are you committed to seeing yourself as just one part of a bigger whole, as one voice in a larger chorus, as one critical link of a stronger chain?»
The assembly concluded with a powerful exercise, for which Ms. Weston asked audience members to join hands and repeat a slightly revised version of the MICDS Mission, «More than ever our nation needs US to meet the challenges of this world with confidence and embrace ourselves and all its people with compassion.»
She then led students and faculty in a repeated chorus, «We will. We do. We can. We are.»
Dana Weston ’00, MHA, FACHE, is President and CEO of Morehead Memorial Hospital in Eden, NC. She previously served as Director of Operations for Novant Health Shared Services. She earned a bachelor’s in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University in 2004 and received a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006.
The Erik L. Bond ’77 Lecture is sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Leslie F. Bond Sr. and Mr. Leslie F. Bond Jr. ’75 in honor of Erik L. Bond, the first African-American student to complete all of the grades at St. Louis Country Day School. Erik was an outstanding scholar, athlete, artist, and leader, and after his untimely death in 1985, the Bond family sought meaningful ways to honor his memory. The Bond Lecture brings noted speakers to MICDS each year to commemorate Black History Month and to encourage people to reflect on the value of life.