We Still Have a Choice to Use Our Voice for Good

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on… We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Using this poignant quote as a framework for her presentation to the Foxcroft community, Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University and 2020 Alison Harrison Goodyear ’29 Fellow, drew upon the history of civil rights, inclusive pedagogy, and public service to talk about speaking up, engaging on behalf of the greater good, and taking action for social issues, as well as ideas and thoughts around community, ultimately sharing her belief that Dr. King’s entire quote, but particularly the final sentence, is as true today as it was in 1967.
“In 2020 we still have a choice,” Dr. Chatelain reminded us. “We have a choice in the language we use to talk about each other. We have the choice in our ability to sit with someone else's pain, we have the choice to examine the decisions we've made in the past and imagine a different future. There are many ways we may feel powerless, but there are so many ways in which we can have the choice towards forming the types of community that ultimately will upend any kind of chaos we face.”

As we contemplate this choice, she offered a few things to consider:
  • Learn more about the history of changemakers
  • Spend time thinking about why something is upsetting or moving you
  • Get comfortable expressing your opinions, especially when you think something is wrong
  • Realize that we all make mistakes, and we can hold each other accountable
  • Forgive ourselves, forgive others
“And in the end, I want us to return to this question,” she offered in closing. “Where do we go from here? When you think about the various communities that you have carved out, whether it is as a current or former student at Foxcroft, whether it is an educator or leader on the school campus, whether it's a member of your family, a member of a faith community, a social organization … where would you like to go from here? And how would you like to intimate to yourself and to others and to the people who are watching you and care about you that, in fact, chaos is only going to end when we find better ways of building community.”

Dr. Chatelain also conducted two workshops during her time with Foxcroft. One workshop was for faculty and staff where she drew upon her experience as a teacher to discuss and reflect on how COVID-19 and the greater reach of the Movement for Black Lives have challenged all educators and learners, as well as how to address the disparate and varied experiences of students at schools due to their respective identities.

The other was for student leaders, highlighting the stories of those who agitated for social change, exposed problems, and challenged authority and reminding students that they have the capacity to improve the world around them right now. 

“This was extremely helpful for me to realize that all great leaders have faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles and opposition in their journeys to make positive change,” reflected Claire H. ’21, when asked about the student leader workshop with Dr. Chatelain, “and that those challenges are not something to shy away from, but to stand up to and make the change."

Hays T. ’21 added, “She talked to us about how to have conversations and preserve our relationships without letting opinions/politics get in the way. She also reminded us that everyone is human and we have to think, before we act, about how what we say can affect someone and hurt them.”

Foxcroft will welcome Dr. Chatelain back later in the academic year for two additional workshops. 

The Alison Harrison Goodyear ’29 Fellowship program, offered through the generosity of the family and friends of Alison Harrison Goodyear, Foxcroft Class of 1929, brings distinguished speakers and provocative performers to Foxcroft to deliver a keynote address and conduct small group seminars with students. Fellowship recipients during the program’s 50-year history include such remarkable voices as Maya Angelou, James Baker III, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Sally Ride, Barbara Walters, tech entrepreneur Sheena Allen, hiker, author, and National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year” Jennifer Pharr Davis, and most recently “Hello Fears” founder Michelle Poler, GenHERation founder Katlyn Grasso, and NPR’s Morning Edition host Rachel Martin, and The Social Institute founder Laura Tierney.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.