In Praise of Aspiration

Recent experiences over the past two weeks have placed the notion of aspiration at the center of my consciousness.  At a retreat earlier this month for our trustees and senior administrators, our keynote speaker lamented the unfortunate consequences of Arizona’s failure of aspiration, especially regarding education.  Those consequences have permanent impact on the quality of life in our state and also countless families for multiple generations.  The speaker cited evidence that made his thesis quite compelling and certainly challenging!

On a happier note last week I was part of a meeting with the superintendent of a nearby school district and the principal of one of the schools in that district.  The principal spoke eloquently and movingly about the many families in his school in which the parents came to this country as adults from many different places in our world.  He noted how strongly these parents believed in the American Dream and the promise for which our country has long been a beacon.  As a result, these parents were thoroughly and positively engaged in their children’s school life.  Put simply, they are so highly motivated because they believe so passionately in the power of aspiration.

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to see a superb production of Red presented by Arizona Theatre Company.   The two-character play has as its center the renowned twentieth-century abstract artist Mark Rothko.  Rothko emerges as a genius as an artist, but an intimidating and ultimately sad and lonely person.  In the first scene of the play, he asks his young and somewhat hesitant assistant the following question: “To what do you aspire?”  He poses this query in most belligerent fashion, but nonetheless aspiration was once again front and center for me.

More gently and hopefully asked, this question is a perfect one for the members of the Class of 2012.  As I have often reminded parents, it would be a shame for a young person to peak at age fourteen.  We have been successful as a school insofar as our graduates’ achievements thus far have enhanced their sense of aspiration rather than impeded it.      

Until next time…

My best,

Leo