February 11, 2019

The Glorious Days of Glory Days

Dear T-D Family,

As always is the case for me, the first week in February is my favorite school week. From Monday to Friday, February 4th through February 8th the week was as joyous as it was glorious.

With Thornton-Donovan family members, faculty members, the 8-12 student body and about a half dozen featured speakers, T-D’s Glory Days addressed the woes and wonders of daily life and the “what happens next” moments.

For me, as effective and poignant as the words uttered by the Glory Days featured speakers were, the words uttered by our students were equally poignant, effective and, I have to add, stirring.

T-D senior Quincy Campbell never disappoints when he speaks and there was lots of fire in his words as he criticized “Mississippi Burning.” Our Vietnamese junior Shoshana Lieberman narrated an impressive essay that she wrote about God-believing in or not believing in-and one could tell she worked very hard on it.

Hanno Reents, a sophomore from Germany, spoke without notes about the Reformation and the role Martin Luther played in it. Hanno easily commanded the presence of the T-D audience with the power of his words and the power of his prose – all much more impressive when one realizes that Hanno’s native language is not English.

A number of others were called upon to speak at the Coromandel Restaurant. Spencer Neuman has no difficulty speaking spontaneously and effectively and did so once again. A new T-D import, eighth grader Enzo Maldonado, was extremely poised in presenting his initial thoughts on Glory Days. Then there was Matthew Gayle who was a crowd favorite and couldn’t wait to speak and happily created his own premier. Brevity was the essence of wit.

A few days later at Sir John’s Restaurant in White Plains, Philippe le Grand Teyssonniere de Gramont stole the show as his speech became a Q and A. As a most impressive eighth grader le Grand should be music to our ears for years to come. Speaking about his native land, France, and the Huguenots as well as La Rochelle and New Rochelle was a topic that needed to be aired. It was only fitting that his mom and sister were there to enjoy it along with all of us.

Representing the Muslim world as a most diligent and ambitious teenager was Samira Rauf. Her presentation was most informative and enlightening. The Rauf family has a long Thornton-Donovan history with her brother and sister both graduating as T-D alums.

T-D learned more about Hinduism in five minutes from Kristen Narain and Lekhaa Singh than it did for the entire school year. Both of these young ladies were ardent spokespersons for their religion and dressed in traditional garb while doing so. What splendor!

Rebecca Sparer, a T-D senior, took the floor with her customarily easy going style and voiced her pride in being Jewish and using her faith to guide her life. Becca recently returned from Israel and related some of her experiences there to her time at Thornton-Donovan and her synagogue in White Plains.

The last scheduled speaker was Hudson Ardizzone-West who spoke without notes. His comments were articulate and he was easily able to voice his agnostic views with style and grace.

A few students were called upon to speak extemporaneously. Janna Nunez, speaking without any preparation, brought the house down making no buts about it and putting her heart and soul into her beliefs. No other T-D student was as staunch in his or her beliefs!

And then there was Alex Jones who gave us his three minutes. It was the same amount of time it took for the crowd to stop applauding as his name was called. This alone was enough Glory for me and many others who see Alex as a future giant oak.

In a week that swirled with controversies and adult subject matter being aired on every channel for one and all to digest, T-D upper schoolers were wrangling with many of the same issues as they listened so attentively in churches, temples, synagogues, cemeteries and school houses. The big difference to me was how civil the discourse was and how all students’ points of view and belief systems were respected, valued and appreciated. There were no OMG moments during Glory Days. It was just five days of Hallelujah and how I wish you were there.

Gloriously grateful,

Douglas E. Fleming, Jr.