Headmaster Explores Three Themes in First Chapel Talk of “Year of Friendship”

Headmaster Dennis Manning explored three themes in his first Upper School chapel talk: elevating friendships; embrace of diversity as central to character formation; and forging unique intellectual journeys.

Mr. Manning opened with an invocation excerpted from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Friendship,”and that thought-provoking introduction flowed into a quick tour through Aristotle’s three types of friendship: utility friendships, which arise from coming together to do work; friendships of pleasure, the coming together for pursuit of enjoyment, like video-gaming; and the “friendship of the good,” the highest form, which are friendships that “help you live a good life.”

He noted that Norfolk Academy exists “to form your character,” and he read aloud the school’s new Diversity, Equity, and Justice Statement; the statement was completed over the course of the last academic year, and it will soon be published in the September edition of the Academy magazine and on the school’s website. Closely tied to language in the school’s Philosophy and Objectives,  the statement opens with a declaration of the learning that comes from diversity: “Norfolk Academy believes that the diversity of our community leads children to develop a greater sense of understanding, empathy, and responsibility.”

Mr. Manning said that faculty and students must be dedicated to activating and mobilizing the  statement in the life of the school. “School is a bulwark against hatred and bigotry, anti-Semitism, and prejudice in all its forms,” he said. “If we don’t teach you that, we have failed you.”

He encouraged the students to discover their own individualized pathway to a vibrant intellectual life; teachers are their greatest allies in that enterprise. “We want to spark in you a passion for learning,” he said. “We want you to be excited about advancing your own mind and your own learning.”

As the students were dismissed for their next class, he wrapped up the chapel talk by reminding them to act on the year's theme: "Make a new friend."