October 1, 2019
Every year at Convocation, students, faculty, staff, and parents return to campus and settle into the gym to hear the traditional speeches from Head of School Elizabeth McGregor and the new ASB President. This year, McGregor’s speech discussed the new theme of empathy and connection, which seems to be a continuation of last year’s theme of integrity.
“I think we always need to put emphasis on our school values,” noted McGregor. “Last year we focused on integrity and being truthful and honest, which was very much a focus on oneself. Empathy, on the other hand, is about connecting with others, trying to put yourself in their shoes, understanding their perspective, and feeling with them. It is such an important quality to have and helps us emphasize and create a sense of belonging we want for the Westridge community.”
This year’s theme was chosen to help the Westridge community better connect with one another and start to turn away from computer screens and cell phones. McGregor wants to make sure that the Westridge community is a space where everyone feels safe and happy to learn. The ability for people to connect with others on a personal level helps to ensure that no one feels alienated, which can create an unhealthy learning space.
“I think the theme is a great idea during such a polarizing time in our country and community,” commented ASB President Sophie C. ‘20. “Right now empathy is important for Westridge because we need to recognize other voices and be accepting of them, regardless of our own opinion. The theme is really about bettering our community by bettering ourselves in terms of our capacity for kindness and understanding.”
Sophie learned about the theme prior to the school year at the Student Action Council planning meeting. The new theme helped to inform ideas for the ASB theme of the year, which is “We Before I.”
Both themes for this year speak to building a community that is better at supporting one another. There are also many reminders around campus to practice stepping into others’ shoes, such as the Lower School’s art project in the Main Hall. The Lower School students created a shoe mural and origami shoes to reflect on McGregor's powerful words at Convocation.
“Every time I had conversations with people, read newspaper articles, watched TV, or went online, it became more and more apparent that people were talking about the need for kindness and empathy—or not demonstrating it—and so it was a natural choice. I also believe that the more we operate in a world of technology or behind technology, the more we have to engage face-to-face in respectful ways and build personal relationships,” said McGregor.