The peace march left Forsyth last Thursday afternoon through the little-used north gate to the Big Backyard. Bearing signs celebrating the values in our honor code, students in Senior-K through Grade 6, their teachers, some administrators, staff and parents–a group of about 400–walked up Forsyth Boulevard, crossed the street with the help of the Washington University police, and made our way into the interior of the Danforth campus, arriving at Graham Chapel.
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Neighborhood Connections. Dr. King spoke at Graham Chapel 60 years ago. Three years later, in 1960, King spoke at United Hebrew Temple, now the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center on Skinker Boulevard, another site we’ve visited on Martin Luther King Day. Both places are equidistant from Forsyth School by about four Falcon Field laps. Our plan was to have the children stand where Dr. King stood, and more importantly, to imagine him as a person no different from themselves in their potential for courageous compassion.
Dr. King’s Message. Dr. King frequently used the story of the good Samaritan in his speeches to illustrate this central principle, and I told that story at Graham Chapel—about the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho (about 35 Falcon Field laps), the man who had fallen among thieves, the “respectable” men who did not stop to help, worried rather about their own safety, and the lowly Samaritan who asked himself the question, If I don’t help this man, what will happen to him? This was King’s central question for any who would listen and supplied my ultimate message to the marchers at Graham Chapel on Thursday, that we’re on this planet first and foremost to help each other, even when it’s hard.
Student Program. The kids took care of the rest of our activities at Graham Chapel. The fifth graders, through song and spoken word, shared their interpretation of Dr. King’s dream, and the entire School sang the Beatles’ “Let it Be,” a song they’d rehearsed in their music classes with Mr. Thomas throughout the week. Similarly, teachers had used their Morning Meetings throughout the week to examine the words we live by every day—honesty, kindness, respect, responsibility, fairness and good sportsmanship—in light of Dr. King’s legacy.
Return to Campus. As the last lines of the refrain “Whisper words of wisdom, let it be” resounded through the vaulted ceiling of the chapel, the marchers filed out, Little Friend by Big Friend. We returned to Forsyth where we found the Fillmore students, freshly awakened from naps, greeting us at the Big Back yard gate with hand-painted signs and instruments.
Thanks to our Neighbors. Washington University is our next door neighbor, and we are connected in many ways from running at Francis Field, to visits to the Kemper Museum, to our Aitken Artist-in-Residence Program (this year Master Printer Tom Reed), and more. Our deep appreciation goes to Phyllis Jackson for arranging our use of Graham Chapel and to Sargeant Robert Wayne for arranging Police coverage for crossing Forsyth Boulevard. Washington University Police officers Sargeant Bob and Corporal Mark Alexander stopped traffic in both directions on Forsyth Boulevard so that our group of 400 could make the crossing safely. It’s a bold move to take the whole School on a walking field trip, and we could not have done this without the support of our great neighbors at Washington University.
– Mike Vachow, Head of School