Coming Together as a Community

By Paul Hagen, Dean of Students

On Wednesday, students around the country walked out of class to protest violence in schools. Students at EPS also participated—nothing particularly unique about that. What was unique—and very encouraging—was not that students at EPS walked out, but that they worked hard, both before and after the walkout, to ensure that all students felt safe to freely express their opinions, and to engage in the level that they felt comfortable with.

Instead of walking out myself, I walked around, just to see how students were responding. What I found was that, regardless of whether students walked out or stayed seated, whether they wrote letters to elected officials or expressed their opinions through art, they all acted with respect, empathy, and care. I didn’t see students opposing each other. I didn’t hear confrontations, accusations, or arguments. Instead I saw students embracing, encouraging, and engaging one another. I saw students working together to make sense of tough topics and to answer difficult questions. I saw a community come together in love, respect, and understanding regardless of political views or ideological beliefs.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the United States today is the hyper-polarization of our partisan politics. It cripples our government, clouds our reasoning, and damages our communities. We are increasingly living in a bifurcated world—two sides engaged less and less with each other. But on Wednesday I saw a glimpse of a better, brighter future. A future in which there is more dialogue, less punditry. A future in which we come together in community, instead of fracturing along party lines. Our students showed us again that together—as part of a kind, caring, and respectful community—we can create that beautiful future.