Given as the Opening School Ceremony address for Highlands Latin School’s 2016-2017 school year, August 29, 2016.
Welcome, parents, teachers, and students, to the 2016-2017 academic year. It is a joy and privilege to address you at the beginning of this, our seventeenth year. We thank God for this sultry summer morning, for Highlands Latin School, for a new school year, for the gift of life, the gift of children, and the joy of learning.
In partnership with parents and guided by the Gospel, we are committed to helping each student develop his or her intellectual gifts to the highest standards of the classical tradition. We are committed to character and faith formation. We are committed to helping students grow in knowledge and wisdom, and in the love of Our Lord, so that they may use their gifts in the service of others and for the glory of Christ and his Church.
A Highlands Latin education is built on a strong and lasting foundation: a foundation of three universal languages (Latin, mathematics, and music), a foundation of reading the classics to develop wisdom and virtue, and the foundation of a living faith.
As I look at our students and think about how to encourage you in your school work this year, I can think of no better example than Rome. Rome began as a humble village of outcasts, but grew to become mistress of the world. Rome is the city that created an empire so enduring that it has haunted the memory of mankind ever since. Historians always ask why Rome fell, but the real question is why Rome ever arose. How can we explain Rome, the Eternal City? How can we explain the spirit of Rome that never gave up, that never made terms with the enemy? Rome knew from the beginning that she was destined for greatness.
There is no natural explanation for Rome, just as there is no natural explanation for you! We believe that each of you is destined for greatness. You have parents that love you and teachers that have a passion for teaching, and all that is needed is for you to persevere, to never give up, to never make terms with the enemy. And who is your enemy? Apathy, boredom, sloth, discouragement, despair, and defeat. Rome was defeated many times, but she never gave up. She lost many battles, but she never lost the war. She always came back to fight another day—and so must you.
We hope that you have a good year and learn as much as you can. We hope that you persevere in your studies and never give up. And we pray that you will add to those Roman virtues of perseverance and courage the Christian virtues of humility, mercy, and charity.
Students, respect and obey your parents and teachers. Be kind to your classmates and always think of other people first and you will be happy and loved in a way that the Romans never were. The Romans were great, but with the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ you can aspire to a greatness that even the Romans never dreamed of. Work hard and have a great year.
Originally published in The Classical Teacher Winter 2018 edition