Opening of RL’s 374th Year

“Privilege is not in and of itself bad; what matters is what we do with privilege… Privilege does not have to be negative, but we have to share our resources and take direction about how to use our privilege in ways that empower those who lack it.” Headmaster Kerry Brennan enlisted the words of the famous African-American author, feminist, and social activist Ms. bell hooks, as he addressed the students, faculty and staff during Roxbury Latin’s Opening of Fall Term Hall on August 29.

While the record-breaking heat may have dampened the brow, it did not dampen the spirit as Roxbury Latin began its 374th school year. Before classes began, Headmaster Brennan addressed the school in Hall—a student body of 303, including the 45 boys that comprise the new Sixth Class along with 15 boys added to Classes V, IV, and III—on the privilege of attending Roxbury Latin, and on the term privilege as it stands in today’s culture. Mr. Brennan, in his own terms, likened privilege to “the secular equivalent of grace” and ultimately asserted that “privilege always suggests opportunities.”

Before the Headmaster's address, Class I president Kevin Demore read John F. Kennedy’s 1961 address to the Massachusetts General Court: “For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us—recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state—our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, will be measured [by whether we were] truly men of courage, judgement, integrity, dedication.”

In his talk, Mr. Brennan offered his own response to JFK’s time-honored words, affirming that these qualities of character are the same we aim to instill in every boy during his RL years. Headmaster Brennan concluded:

“As we start our school year, Roxbury Latin’s 374th, remember that our most important reason for existing is in order to prepare you and inspire you to seek justice, to improve our society for all its members, and to insure that the privileges we have known are utilized on behalf of revelatory, transformative, generous causes. Don’t squander what you’ve been given. But don’t be ashamed of it either. I wish you a year in which we all can begin or continue that good work.”

The opening day ceremonies concluded with the traditional all-school handshake, which serves to welcome people new to the RL community—boys and adults—and for all to wish one another a happy and strong start to the academic year.

Watch the Headmaster's address in full here, or read it here. View photos from the day here.
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