Nov 27, 2020 Message to Members
Peter Parker’s uncle knew it: he knew the importance of the ‘r’ word.
Fans milling at COMICON might debate just when – or if – Uncle Ben counselled
young Spiderman that “with great power comes great responsibility.” But they would accept that in a simple
comic book, Stan Lee touched upon a critical truth of human experience. And
there is little which is more powerful – and requires more accountability – than
Let’s start with another ‘r’ word. Or let’s not,
because it’s a ‘p’ word. It’s a pejorative: ‘a word or
phrase which has negative connotations or that is intended to belittle or
disparage’ (Merriam-Webster). In many cases, as Google instructs, pejoratives
have original context. There may have been a time in our history and our
learning when a word was acceptable in common use, without intentional negative
meaning. But times and context change.
The English language contains many words which we now identify
as pejorative, such as the ‘i’ word(s) and the ‘m’ word. But
we’ve grown up, and most of us have learned to behave with respect and to treat
people with dignity. Most of us understand the other ‘p’ word: power.
Words have power: it is undeniable. Mother Teresa said, “Kind words can be
short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” By extension, we
conclude unkind words also echo, leaving their lasting mark in the shape of
So, when those in positions of strength and influence wield
words that harm, the damage is significant. This behaviour alienates and
denigrates valuable people who deserve better. This behaviour diminishes the
speaker in the eyes of those seeking the ‘l’ word: leadership.
Confucius said, “Without knowing the force of words, it is
impossible to know men”. One without knowledge of people, lacking empathy and
genuine care for all, is a leader of none.
Language moves and shifts. It breathes, and is organic. It
can be hard to keep up with the evolution of thought and the societal shifts which
manifest in speech. Perhaps one might be forgiven for speaking archaic and
intellectually inappropriate words. But a leader is also a learner.
If a leader misspeaks, there must be an accounting where his “apology needs to
be as loud as [his] disrespect was” (Anonymous). Those in the learning
community deserve no less.
Our Principals and Vice-Principals find themselves in
teachable moments every day, and take these opportunities to build
understanding and acceptance. This elevates all to higher ground, because that
is where true leaders are found. Without capes or masks, and without comic book
drama, their actions exemplify leadership.