Fall Community Gatherings Stress Leadership, Empathy, Open-Mindedness

"Someone who prioritizes the success of those around them before their own."
"Who brings out the best in others."
"Who listens to learn."
"A role model."
These are a few qualities of a good leader in the eyes of Groton students, who shared observations on inclusive leadership during the school’s third community gathering of the fall term. 
During the November 13 meeting, held via Zoom, students and faculty watched Drew Dudley’s “Leading with Lollipops” TED talk, then discussed their own “lollipop moments,” when they experienced or witnessed a seemingly small gesture with outsized impact—a moment that helped someone feel that they belonged. Participants also discussed a variety of prompts, including Dudley’s quote, saying, “As long as we make leadership something bigger than us, as long as we keep leadership something beyond us, as long as we make it about changing the world, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day from ourselves and from each other.” 
The fall community gatherings—part of the school's Diversity & Inclusion initiative—were organized by dorm and split students into smaller breakout rooms for the deeper discussions. Sixth Formers led all the meetings, with dorm heads and affiliates also participating.​ The other programs this fall, on October 23 and September 17, followed a similar format. During the September kick-off meeting, students and faculty watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” TED talk, which emphasizes the power of personal stories and the potential stereotypes have to thwart inclusion. 
"Our community gatherings enable us to engage actively with our rich diversity​," said Director of Diversity & Inclusion Sravani Sen-Das. "Each conversation is built around our core values and aims to develop, through a series of dialogues, a shared commitment to upholding a respectful community where all feel a sense of belonging.​"​
The October community gathering encouraged students to model vulnerability through storytelling, with a focus on the impending national election. Participants were asked to share a story that showed the impact of the upcoming election on their own relationships and well-being. They also discussed to whom they were turning for strength and hope, and how disappointment after the election might be viewed by some as a deep loss.
"We,​ ​like most other schools, felt unprepared for the aftermath of the 2016 elections​," said Ms. Sen-Das​. ​"​This time ​around we wanted to prepare our community, through dialogue, to engage with each other and humanize the election and its impact on us and, by doing so, to emphasize our commitment to prioritizing relationships over opinions.​"​ 
The pre-election discussion opened with a quote from Robert Jones Jr.: “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
Leah Pothel '21, a head of the Diversity & Inclusion group, said the all-school programming was important "because it emphasized the school's commitment to D&I and all of the principles that it stands for. Centering this work sets a precedent in which the D&I norms become the baseline for all interactions at Groton, and hopefully these gatherings will cultivate a more respectful, empathetic, and understanding environment."

Diversity & Inclusion programming will continue throughout the year. The final program of the fall term opened with a Maya Angelou quote—and a sentiment essential to all of Groton’s D&I programming. Said Angelou: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."