I will deliver a commencement address to all of our FCPS graduates this week. However, as I reflect on some of the issues we face as a nation, I feel compelled to offer some additional insight.
Dear Graduating Seniors,
As a school system in Maryland, FCPS is charged to ensure that you graduate “college and career ready.” You have completed many academic courses and been given a variety of assessments to demonstrate that you are, in fact, ready for the next chapter of your life. Most of all, you have been taught how to learn, a skill that will be essential in your futures.
Additionally, FCPS has aspired to “equip each and every student to be an empowered learner and an engaged citizen to achieve a positive impact in the local and global community.” And our nation is in desperate need of engaged citizens striving to achieve a positive impact!
Lately, we see vicious attacks on people because of their race, ethnicity, or religion, and we hear people refusing to accept an idea because it comes from a certain political party. This divisiveness is fueled by social media tirades. We are so busy screaming at each other that it appears we have forgotten how to listen.
One of the tenets of servant leadership is to “seek the story behind the person.” Many years ago, acclaimed author Stephen Covey cited, “seek first to understand,” as one of the habits of highly successful people. When you seek, you listen and strive to understand. This skill enables you to build trust, strengthen relationships and work respectfully to find solutions.
Seeking to understand empowers you to discover why a person feels the way they do. It unpacks the life experiences of that person and opens a new perspective for you to consider. It may not always lead to an agreement, but it will help you to learn and to understand others.
There is no assessment that will tell us if our FCPS graduates become engaged citizens who have a positive impact on our community. It will be the actions of our graduates that identify success. If our graduates create a positive impact, then our community will thrive. The future will demonstrate if this goal was achieved.
And so FCPS graduates, I hope that you will be a “seeker.” The future depends on it!