A Mantra to Live By

“No Condition is Permanent” was the title and central theme of this week’s Bissell Grogan Humanities Symposium keynote speech by Dr. Rajesh Panjabi. Dr. Panjabi captivated the audience as he shared his personal experience of escaping Liberia during the onset of civil war as a child, resettling in North Carolina, and eventually co-founding the non-profit, Last Mile Health. By embracing the mantra, “no condition is permanent,” Panjabi and his team have set out to change the way people in developing countries access health care by creating networks of support that could save up to thirty million lives.

The idea that no condition is permanent resonates as we head into Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Next week we will take time to recognize and honor the work of Dr. King and those who followed him. King also believed that no condition is permanent. He worked tirelessly as a non-violent civil rights activist in the fight for racial equity, a cause which ultimately cost him his life. In his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” he whole-heartedly embraced this mantra when he famously said, “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

People like Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Rajesh Panjabi are inspirational, but we don’t want students to be daunted by the scope of their impact. We asked students to think about the conditions that exist in their lives that they can work towards changing and how might they react to changes that are not within their control. How might they approach improving their work as a student, becoming involved in a cause that they connect with, or trying a new activity or extracurricular to move out of their comfort zone?
We asked the 12th graders to think about the legacy they want to leave on the School and what they hope to accomplish during their final months as Brimmer students. Some of the goals that members of the Class of 2019 shared were: “I want to build an even more supportive community by going to more community events”; “I want to help the community know more about traditional Chinese culture”; “I want to help my friends who will be CAP leaders next year develop their voice as leaders”; and “I want to promote the idea of what it means to be a student-athlete and a leader among the community and becoming mindful of the impact (negative & positive) that we have on each other.”
As our students continue to figure out their place in the world, I hope that they will carry with them the idea that no condition is permanent.

MLK Resources

This past Friday during dinner we asked our Kindergartner the same question we do every night, “What is something you learned today at school?” Usually he hems and haws on the question, but he quickly told us that he learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Rosa Parks. We did not hesitate and told him we would love to hear what he learned about them.

Our son then took the next ten minutes to tell us the stories he learned about King and Parks, sharing stories about their childhood, what inspired them, what they did, and how they wanted everyone to be treated equal. I have to admit, we were proud parents. The conversation then shifted to why. He wanted to know why people would not treat everyone nicely or why some people are not treated the same as others. Our five year old was clearly upset by some of the ideas.

We left our dinner feeling inspired that our child had the opportunity to learn about King and Parks, bus boycotts, and Freedom Riders and the importance of the their stories.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr Day, I wanted to share a few resources that may be helpful for children of different ages:

Grades PK-5

I am Martin Luther King, Jr by Brad Meltzer

I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by Doreen Rappaport

Grades 6-8

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges

Generation Fix: Young Ideas for a Better World by Elizabeth Rusch

We are Immigrants: Voices of The Immigrant Experience by Thomas Hoobler

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Elspeth Leacock

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Grades 9-12

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr by Coretta Scott King

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Raymond Arsenault