School in the Aftermath of the Verdict

Director Vince Durnan shared the following message on April 21, 2021 following the guilty verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
We’ve watched with rapt attention for months now in anticipation of a verdict in the Chauvin trial, and as classes ended yesterday, as buses headed to the River Campus, and as After School convened, we heard definitively from the jury on the charges of murder and guilty verdict. It would be hard to identify an event more emblematic of the challenges we face as a nation, and it would be hard to adequately describe the depth of feeling across the USN community brought forth through this entire sequence. And still this morning, we come to school, to be together, to keep doing the work.
If you’re wondering why I’m writing, why you need to hear from a Nashville head of school about a trial in Minneapolis, here’s my answer — at our best we are connected to the world that our students will inhabit, lead, and serve. Our faculty and staff live very much in that world too, and what happens in the wider sphere does not stop at our doors. As much as USN can be a needed sanctuary at times, we cannot settle for being an enclave. From our earliest Demonstration School days, what happened here was designed for relevance beyond our classrooms, to ask and answer the questions of our era. And we’re living right now through what will be important content on pages of books read by generations to come.
Just two nights ago we highlighted the USNA Evening Classes program with a chance to learn from Ambassador Andrew Young, civil rights giant and source of abundant wisdom. Among many lessons he shared was the idea that every generation should expect and commit to facing hard times — knowing that we already have what we need to do something good in response. His nine decades on this earth stand as a powerful object lesson for his city, his country, and this world.
The killings of George Floyd, and most recently of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, and here in Tennessee of high school student Anthony Thompson, join a chain of tragedy and racial inequity that is generating what I’m seeing more topically described as societal polarity. Forgive me for struggling to see any sensibility in taking sides on an issue of basic humanity so fundamental to any hope for our future. There is so much more to unite us, as I’ve written before, than to divide us. And we have what we need to live up to the example of Ambassador Young, to do right by the opportunity of each new day.
Our students will want to talk today and in days to come about the significance of this moment to them, and our faculty will share resources in turn that might be of value in your home as conversations continue. We are here to help, as always. My request of you, and my promise in turn, is that we each ask ourselves what next steps, modest or monumental, we might commit to in support of one another and of our highest aspirations as a school community. All we can do is all we can do.
In that spirit,
Vince Durnan

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