SEGL’s growing community celebrated Family/Homecoming Weekend 2016 in extraordinary fashion this year. Highlighting the event was an interactive session with Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and a $400,000 matching challenge from the Dan, Nanna, and Sebastian Stern Family. Once we meet the Stern challenge, our capital campaign will be complete!
The weekend began on Friday evening with twin Dupont Circle gatherings of graduates and families/friends. Our Academic building was full of gleeful tears and hugs as old friends reconnected and new friendships began. Across the way at the Dupont Hotel, parents, friends, faculty, and board members shared stories and conversation well past the event’s scheduled close.
The next morning we began in earnest at the Johns Hopkins SAIS building’s Kenney Auditorium. After a model English class for parents and friends (while our graduate community, in our Academic building, formed six “families” to facilitate networking and support), we began our annual community “Fishbowl” discussion. The event allows everyone in our community to participate in a discussion, taken from recent headlines, about ethical decision making. This year’s topic was cybersecurity, and we welcomed top White House cybersecurity expert (and previous SEGL speaker) Trevor Rudolph to preside. The conversation was intense and focused, and Rudolph ended the session with a set of challenging but engaging Socratic questions.
Our annual Golden Mug Award Luncheon featured longtime SEGL favorite, Ambassador George Moose, the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and current Vice Chair of the United States Institute of Peace board. SEGL Head of School Noah Bopp and Spring 2016 graduate Toella Pliakas introduced Moose, who spoke for a heartfelt ten minutes about his appreciation for SEGL and its students. He also offered thoughts to the generation of leaders our growing community represents.
Bopp’s tribute to Moose included the following lines:
We do need bake sales to Save Darfur. We do need blog posts to fight misogyny. And we do need Bob Dylan to teach us what is blowing in the wind. But we cannot bake, blog, and Bob Dylan our way into world change. Yes, some of us will stand outside the halls of power with megaphones and a team of protesters. That is good, and important. But we also need some of us to sit inside those halls, face real challenges, and grind the gears of bureaucracy.
Ambassador Moose helps them see the world’s change making apparatus in all its complexity. He helps them recognize that leadership does not come with easy answers. It is hard.
*In giving this award to Ambassador Moose our graduates are not saying that they are no longer idealists. Instead, they are saying that he has helped them become, as John F. Kennedy once said, idealists without illusions. *
Following Ambassador Moose’s remarks, we made way for one of the more incredible Master Classes in the school’s history, featuring Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. (Fall 2015 graduate Tara Maloney served as moderator for the session.) Flanked by secret service officers and surrounded by nearly 200 SEGL community members, the Secretary made opening remarks and then led participants in a gripping “ticking time bomb” scenario that elucidated the challenges of fighting terrorism while staying true to Constitutional values.
A lively election panel followed, featuring NPR Lead Editor for Politics and Digital Audience Domenico Montenaro, Washington Post reporter Karoun Demerjian, and FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten. Spring 2016 graduate Maria Katsulos moderated. The discussion included each reporter’s thoughts on remaining neutral in such a heated campaign, their election results predictions (there was even a question about Evan McMullin‘s chances), and comments about the value of traditional journalism. Afterward, a gaggle of community members surrounded each expert, eager for more.
Our last event at SAIS was a graduate-led panel discussion on race and inclusion at SEGL. Organized independently by SEGL graduates with the endorsement of the school’s leadership, the panelists reflected a broad cross-section of graduates of color who spent weeks discussing a series of questions designed to provoke reflection about inclusion at SEGL. (The school asked these graduates to focus exclusively on race this year. Future panels may address other issues, like gender or political identity.)
The panel’s recommendations included incorporating discussions on race into the Ethics and Leadership curriculum, training teachers on how to discuss race, encouraging conversations about race in advisor meetings, recruiting students from DC public schools, and recruiting teachers from area institutions like Howard University.
The conversation that followed was an important moment in the school’s development, and raised several key questions for the school’s leadership to consider. For example, what does the school mean when it says our students “represent the diversity of the United States”? Is a student body reflective of the current demographics of the United States the right goal?
After just enough time to go home and change clothes, the day finished with a spectacular Gala atop the George Washington University’s Elliott School. From a rooftop room and deck with sweeping views of the DC skyline, students, graduates, teachers, family members, board members, and friends celebrated all eight years of SEGL’s accomplishments.
Over 200 guests heard SEGL’s Founder and Head of School, Noah Bopp, announce an exciting last step in our capital campaign: Dan, Nanna, and Sebastian (Spring 2016) Stern have issues a transformative matching challenge that, when met, will finish our campaign. ** The Sterns will match the next $400,000 raised toward the campaign dollar-for-dollar**. When the challenge is complete, SEGL will have met its $2 million goal! The announcement was met with rousing applause and several families have already stepped in to contribute.
(To make a gift to the Stern Family Matching Challenge, click here to make a tax-deductible gift. For more information about the challenge, contact Mairéad O’Grady at email@example.com.)
The weekend ended with our Sunday morning State of the School presentation and discussion featuring SEGL Founder and Head of School Noah Bopp and SEGL Board Chair (and founding trustee) Dudley Lacy. The conversation included discussion of SEGL’s expansion plans (in what city will SEGL open its first satellite campus, and why?), the capital campaign, and issues of inclusion raised at the previous day’s panel. It was an exciting and fitting end to a terrific weekend.
To make a gift to the Stern Family Matching Challenge, click here to make a tax-deductible gift. For more information about the challenge, contact Mairéad O’Grady at firstname.lastname@example.org.