The first-ever all-school opening convocation Tuesday morning included the investiture of a new president, the announcement of a new character theme for the year and the investiture of this year’s upper school prefects and middle school senators.
It all took place on Ted Slavin field, on a stage before the entire faculty and 1,600 students, with lines of school buses parked in the background. The Middle School had been bused over for the ceremony.
As the Jazz Explorers, led by performing arts teacher Shawn Costantino, finished their introductory set, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts started the proceedings.
“This is a beautiful, beautiful sight,” she said from the podium. “We’ve been preparing for months for this and it is just overwhelming.”
“We are two campuses but one school, and this convocation celebrates our unity in the most spectacular way,” Huybrechts said.
Seventh graders and seniors were seated next to each other as a symbol of this unity, she said.
Huybrechts introduced this year’s character motto, four words from Chinese philosopher and poet Lao Tzu, “From caring comes courage.” A main point of the theme this year, she said, was having the courage to choose “the hard right over the easy wrong.” She cited the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the 50th anniversary of which is this year, known for civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, as an example to follow.
Afterwards, Chair of the Board of Trustees Christine Hazy (Steven ’00, Charissa ’03, Trenton ’05, Courtney ’11) invested Richard Commons as the new president, robing him after he took five oaths, saying, “I will,” after each one.
The newly invested president then invested this year’s head and senior prefects, moving down classes from there.
Next, Head Prefect Ashley Sacks ’14 and Henry Hahn ’14 each addressed the student body.
Sacks used a Jewish fable to talk about the value of pursuing one’s interests and staying true to oneself.
Hahn joked to the audience about the failures he got through during his time on the track and field team during his seventh grade year.
“Don’t be afraid to fail,” he urged the student body, citing what famous alumni “failed” in while at Harvard-Westlake. “Get involved and stay involved.”
Commons ended the convocation with his first speech to the whole school, calling the day a “glorious first day of school” and thanking the “indefatigable maintenance staff” for being a part of making the all-school event possible.
In his last remarks, he mentioned looking forward to defeating Loyola High School in football this Friday and highlighted the importance of positive teacher-student relationships.
“I know great things will be accomplished this year, but greater things will be accomplished if we inspire and believe in each other,” he said.
“And with that I welcome you all to Harvard-Westlake’s 23rd year,” Commons said. “Happy new year! That’s all.”