Head of School Welcome

Head of School Darryl J. Ford addressed students in grades 1 through 12 at the annual All-School Assembly on Sept. 7. His remarks appear below.

I welcome you, the Penn Charter community of students, faculty, and staff to the 2017-2018 school year. This year, we have 101 new families and 138 new students who join Penn Charter. In addition, we have more than 20 new teachers and staff members. For all who are new, we offer a special welcome to you and hope that you will come to love this school as much as those of us who have been here for a long time. Whether you are brand new or a lifer in your 14th year, whether you come from around the corner in East Falls, Chestnut Hill, or have just moved here from Seattle, Washington; New York; Colorado; Canada, France, England, or Poland; or whether you love reading, the arts, baseball, or field hockey; we think there is a place for you at Penn Charter. Welcome!

This year’s theme is the Quaker Testimony of Peace. To help us think about Peace, I want to offer you three quick lessons, three quick concepts about peace.

Concept 1: The Quaker Peace Testimony:

“We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretense whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the world.”

During your time at Penn Charter, you will have opportunity to learn about the Peace Testimony. Here is what I want you to know today: the testimony in this form was written by Margaret Fell, one of the founders of Quakerism.

Born in 1632 in England, Margaret Fell was known as the “Mother of Quakerism.” She became a Quaker after learning about George Fox, another founder of Quakerism, and his ministry. She eventually married George Fox, wrote many letters to Quaker “roving missionaries,” and interceded for early Quakers when they were imprisoned for their beliefs.

It was Margaret fell who wrote this affirmation of the Peace Testimony to King Charles II and expanded the notion of peace beyond the refusal to bear arms to a way of life.

A lesson from Margaret Fell: How can you make peace a way of life?

Concept II: Active Peace Making

From the website Quakers In the World, I offer you the concept of Active Peace Making. This organization notes that, “Quakers have frequently taken peace building initiatives to reconcile communities and nations involved in violent conflicts….Often working on the ground in the midst of hostilities, they have used their good office to bring together those who regard each other as ‘enemies.’”

Making worldwide peace in a big way is complicated. However, perhaps we can be active peacemakers in the hallways of our schools and on the playgrounds. Several years ago when talking about peace, I promoted “talk it out chairs” – two chairs where students in the classroom could sit down and talk things out to resolve a conflict and to make peace. How great would it be if we all agreed to find the talk it out chairs, a talk it out table, or a talk it out room to meet conflict head-on and to become active about peacemaking?

A lesson from Quakers in the World: How can you actively build peace within our city, nation, and world? And how can you actively build peace within our own Penn Charter Community?

Concept III: A lesson from Michael Roche

There is story told called, “The Real Meaning of Peace.” It goes like this:

“There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.

But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest – in perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize? The king chose the second picture. Do you know why?

"Because," explained the king, "peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."

I found this story on a website called IamSpiritual.com. So what does this story have to do with Drama Teacher Michael Roche?

Just five days ago, Mr. Roche wrote me the following email with Peace as the heading:

“Hello Dr. Ford,

It's funny that Peace is the theme this year, and crazy enough, can be found in my bathroom.

(It's okay to laugh). But we have a quote in a frame:

"PEACE. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart."

Have a wonderful school year.”

Yes, from the King of Thrones Michael Roche and his throne room, the exact same quote that I found embedded in and as the moral of the story of “The Real meaning of Peace!”

A lesson from Michael Roche and “The Real Meaning of Peace” story: How can you be in the midst of noise, trouble, hard work and similar things and find peace in your heart?

The Quaker Peace Testimony, active peacemaking, and peace in your heart – these are three quick concepts I offer you, today – this beginning of school and as we explore peace as our Testimony for the year.

The Peace Testimony, active peacemaking, and peace in your heart.

Perhaps like Margaret Fell, these things will be our testimony to the world.

Welcome to this new school year. I know it will be one of great learning and growth, friendships, and even challenges. Yet, I know that if we use peace to guide our actions with each other, it will be a year like no other.

Thank you.

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Penn Charter

A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 215.844.3460
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