This past weekend, Upper School Director Keith Dallas and I attended the SAIS Annual Conference in Atlanta. One of the keynote speakers at the gathering was Dr. Donna Hicks, author of the bestselling book, Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict. While I have heard better speakers at these conferences over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better message.

Attendees received a handout taken from her book. The sheet, entitled “The Ten Temptations, or how to maintain your dignity when your instincts think they know better” contains enough food for thought to provide material for a semester’s worth of advisory meetings.

Today, though, I’d like to focus on just one of the ten temptations: Don’t be lured by false intimacy. Beware of the tendency to connect with others by gossiping about someone else.

Dr. Hicks notes that joining in when a group is being critical of someone can make one feel bonded to the group. She continues by saying that doing so “makes for engaging conversation but it is harmful and undignified.” True intimacy comes from speaking truth about yourself, from sharing your own world.

The current political climate — and I am referring to the full breadth of the political conversation, not simply the presidential campaign — has given us all a sustained view of the harm generated by this type of behavior. If we want to be constructive, we must be respectful. We must maintain our own dignity and work to sustain that of others. If we would allow follow Dr. Hicks’s advice, our school — and our country — would be a better place.

Please watch this space over the next few weeks for news and pictures of my journey to China.

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