(This week’s letter is adapted from my remarks at the Middle School Honor Code Assembly on Wednesday, September 9.)
The word “honor” is used more often as a noun than as a verb, and most often as an object. Honor is generally understood as something that a person has, or lives by, or needs to protect or defend. I prefer the use of honor as a verb, as something that a person does—to honor other people, to honor one’s family, to honor one’s school, to honor one’s country. At last January’s Middle School RISE assembly, I said that I try to be guided by the principle that every person I meet is more important than I am. I can think of no better definition of honor than this.
If I believe that other people are more important than I am, I will not dishonor them by cheating and giving myself an unfair advantage over them. If I believe that other people are more important than I am, I will not dishonor them by plagiarizing and stealing the product of their hard work. If I believe that other people are more important than I am, I will not dishonor them by lying to them or allowing them to be misled. If I believe that other people are more important than I am, I will not dishonor them by taking what is theirs and not mine.
The habit of believing that every person you meet is more important than you can also strengthen you in situations of conflict. This is an election year, and opinions vary about who should be our president for the next four years. You will inevitably have conversations about the election as it approaches. I would ask that you not cheapen—that you not dishonor—those conversations with insults or interruptions or anger. I would ask rather that you honor them by listening to the other person carefully, by hearing that person’s point of view. I would ask that if you choose to challenge that person, that you honor them by disagreeing respectfully and not rudely—that you honor them as you would want them to honor you.
We honor you at MICDS, and I ask that you honor one another in turn. Honor is not just a noun. It is not a still thing. It is also a verb. It is a living thing. You cannot have it unless you do it. Live by the principle that every person you meet is the most important person in the world, and you will live with honor. I wish you a very happy start to the new school year.
This week’s edition of “How to Prepare for the Election Without Thinking About the Election”: Roll down your car window and wave at people as you pass them by. Everyone enjoys a friendly wave!
This week’s addition to the “Refrains for Rams” playlist: Celebration by Kool & The Gang.
I was saddened to learn this morning that Ronald Khalis Bell, a founding member of Kool & The Gang and the lead writer of the ubiquitous song Celebration, died on Wednesday. He was only 68 years old. Before reading his obituary, I did not know that Bell was a follower of Islam (his Muslim name was Khalis Bayyan) and that verses from the Quran were the inspiration behind his best-known song.
Today’s date inevitably recalls attacks against our nation perpetrated by terrorists who practiced, in the words of President Bush shortly thereafter, “a fringe form of Islamic extremism that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.” To be informed this morning of the derivation of so insistently joyful a song as Celebration from those “peaceful teachings of Islam,” and to take this knowledge to heart as an antidote not only against the lingering grief of September 11, 2001, but against the legacy of misplaced anti-Muslim prejudice to which the events of that date gave rise, has been a blessing to me throughout the day. I hope it will be a blessing to you. Celebration is this week’s addition to the “Refrains for Rams” playlist (Apple Music / Spotify). And I don’t suppose it hurts that it’s also a Cardinals fan favorite.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. I wish you a weekend of celebrations with your families, friends, and loved ones.
Head of School