“Thus in all these ways we will transmit this City, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
When I spoke with my middle school students recently, I stood before them with 32 ounces of a strange, green shake in hand and quoted these final words of the Athenian Oath. I wanted to share the words’ importance and the secret of achieving this lofty goal.
“The best way to transmit Paul Cuffee School and make it greater and more beautiful,” I told the students, “is to improve yourself. My life has been a continuous struggle to improve myself, so that I can make worthwhile contributions. We live to improve the lives of others.”
This I believe.
I then shared with my students the reason for the container of green goo: “During Christmas, my sister-in-law gave me recipes for green smoothies, which consist of fruit and spinach, kale, or some vegetable better suited for salad than smoothie. I tasted it, loved it, and in my never-ending attempt to improve, I seized upon the drink as the ideal way. The battle rages, but I persist: I best serve when I learn, grow, and become a better role model and citizen; not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than Paul Cuffee was transmitted to me.”
“I also want to share with you my daughter’s resolution," I said to my students. "She believes she should take more risks and has determined 2011 will be the year that she believes that she can do it, whether it be learning an instrument, playing basketball, or solving fractions. To symbolize this change, she determined to do a Polar Bear plunge on January 1st. Around noon, we gathered at the beach and then rushed, like fools, where angels feared to tread, vowing to make 2011 better than last year. As I ran to the water and dunked my head in the freezing brine, I thought about all of you: You ,too, have to take risks, responsible risks, in order to transmit our School, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to you.”
“I know a school whose motto is, ‘Our Best today, Better Tomorrow.’” I once wondered at that seemingly paradoxical motto, but I now realize that if we give our best today, then we learn enough that tomorrow’s effort will be even greater than today’s.”
This I believe: improving our world begins with each one of us improving ourselves. Or, as a hymn encourages, “Let there be peace on earth / and let it begin with me.” The ability to transmit this community greater and more beautiful begins with me.