Published : Tuesday, March 27, 2018 | 11:51 AM
For some reason, I have always liked the way “dogged determination” sounds. The alliteration appeals to me, but that’s not all. I do know that many of the people I admire the most have it. These people rarely seek the spotlight or the quick headline. Often, in fact, they see spotlights as a distraction and headline-seeking as a betrayal of their principles — all sizzle, no substance.
Growing up in Green Bay, Wisc., as one of four sons of a traveling hardware salesman and a nurse, my father pursued his education with an unrelenting focus that led to full scholarships to attend college and medical school. Scouting played a big role in his life, and he embraced the promises delineated in its motto with characteristic steadiness and resolve. He rarely backed down or felt the need to explain himself, and he simply went about doing what he said he would do. He taught me that the proof of who you really are would be found in your actions. Growing up, there was a refreshing simplicity in the messages I got from my dad about how I should act in the world: Be honest, be kind, be loyal to your friends and family, don’t seek attention, and do your job. There wasn’t a lot of examination of feelings, and as a teenager (and even more so as an adult) I wished we could have explored the “whys” behind how he lived his life and his expectations of mine, but the lessons that he did pass on to me I cherish deeply.
Two weeks ago, more than a hundred Middle School students and faculty met to talk about how the students wanted to participate in the March 14 walkout on gun violence. Over the last few weeks, the group who has been crafting the Poly Promise, an honor code for the Upper School, has hosted a series of focus groups with students, faculty, and parents to share our work and to discuss ways we can shape the community we collectively aspire to attain.
These are just two examples of groups of people looking to take on big issues thoughtfully, collectively, and with resolve. They aren’t looking for a quick fix but rather recognize that real change doesn’t happen overnight. They want to share their ideas and hear what others think. They want to be part of a movement that will shape the world in which they live and the school they hold dear. As a school in this particular moment in our history, we need to recognize the power and the importance of dogged determination. In our responses to and reflection on the unpredictable political climate, the painful realities of gun violence, the impact of changing demographics, and the momentous awareness sparked by the #MeToo movement, we must find our footing in ground that nourishes the mission and promise of who we are as an institution.
My father will turn 85 in December. We talk every Sunday about his week and mine. Sometimes we share memories about the past; most times, I hear about what’s ahead for him — a concert, a lecture, a trip. Not much has changed — he is still learning. My father does say “I love you” just before he hangs up now. Perhaps, in his own way, he is reminding me what I already know: I was raised in the only way he knew how, and the person he hoped I would become and how I would lead my life would take time, and, well, dogged determination.
John W. Bracker
Polytechnic School, 1030 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 396-6300 or visit www.polytechnic.org.