On Sunday, September 9, students celebrated Groton’s globalism and cemented a new tradition by once again carrying flags from St. John’s Chapel to the Schoolhouse after the opening Convocation service. In all, students carried thirty-six flags representing their own countries and countries important to their families’ heritage. Their other “homeland” was on display too, in the Groton School flag.
In some cases, single flags were carried on behalf of numerous students—including the American flag, which represented thirty states and 90 percent of the student body.
The flag processional began last year, when students marched from the Chapel with twenty-eight flags. In the weeks before school begins, students are asked to share which flags they would like to carry. The lineup on Sunday night included a colorful array representing Armenia, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Israel, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, North and South Korea, Peru, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. The flags, a reminder of our many backgrounds and perspectives, will remain on display in the Schoolhouse's Sackett Forum throughout the week.
The flag processional followed a welcoming Convocation service that marks the community’s first formal gathering as one, with new students, returning students, and faculty joining in St. John’s Chapel, as they will several times a week throughout the year.
At Convocation, Headmaster Temba Maqubela's often humorous words of welcome also included a warning about
what can happen—a
nd does happen—
when inclusion is allowed to move out of the public's focus. “If we are not vigilant, our country, which supported and welcomed immigrants who contributed to it, will continue taking its eyes off the ball, and inclusion in our dynamic democracy will become more fragile," he said. ". . . Our forebears struggled with dynamic inclusion and the idea of what it means to be an open America. We need to go back to our roots of an Open Circle and an Open America."
He then shared his “personal motivators” for inclusion—all phrases from the lyrics of “America,” written by Samuel Francis Smith. Mr. Maqubela related each phrase to a form: for Second Form, Groton's eighth graders, he chose the phrase, “Let all that breathe partake.” New to the Circle, the Second Formers breathe in their share of the Circle’s embrace. For Third Form, the message was, “Let rocks their silence break.” “With strength in numbers on their side, they have finally found their voice,” the headmaster explained.
He directed the words, “Whose bounties all may share,” at the Fourth Formers because they become the bridge between Lower and Upper Schoolers. For Fifth Form, it was, “The school shall ever be our nation’s pride.” Fifth Formers, Mr. Maqubela said, “have to be exemplary as they prepare to receive the baton from the Sixth Form and become the custodians of this dynamic place.”
Finally, the phrase applied to the Sixth Form was “the hope of all the world.” Said Mr. Maqubela: “We have bigger dreams for them than they have for themselves.”
After Convocation and the flag processional to the Schoolhouse, students gathered for their first Roll Call announcements of the year.