Tonight’s meeting will be a bit surreal, taking place with no audience, the Board of Education members participating by conference call, and a handful of staff members socially distanced around our Board Room.
This setting is emblematic of the current state of affairs in our country, both unprecedented and, yes, frightening.
It as if someone hit the pause button and everything that we cherish or take for granted has frozen in place – shuttered schools, empty movie theaters, dark store fronts, and even roped-off playgrounds. No one could have ever imagined that we would experience a real life version of the movie Outbreak.
While this situation may be unparalleled, we are fortunate that history has given us a road map to endure. It is precisely in these pivotal and uncertain moments that our country has always shined the brightest. 9/11 horrified us, but unleashed a wave of patriotism from sea to shining sea. Pearl Harbor caught us off guard, but birthed the Greatest Generation. The Civil War threatened to tear us apart, but was a vital step in becoming a more perfect union.
While we triumphed in these difficult times due to our compassion and our courage, strong leadership was just as imperative. Our darkest moments have always produced an enduring image of a resolute, steady leader. FDR proclaiming a day of infamy, Ronald Reagan eloquently uttering that the Challenger crew was on its journey to touch the face of God, and George W. Bush standing on a pile of rubble of the World Trade Center with a megaphone.
These leaders did not expect to face these crises, but they were ready to lead and offer words of courage and hope.
This crisis presents an opportunity, an opportunity to show that the American spirit is still strong, strong enough to put aside our bickering, strong enough to survive a complete shutdown of our most prized institutions, strong enough to demonstrate empathy in a time of crisis, and strong enough to appear brave, even when we might be terrified on the inside.
And in this time, we are very blessed. Blessed to have doctors and nurses on the frontline of this invisible war, pharmacists to fill our prescriptions, grocery store workers to fill the shelves, refuse laborers to collect our trash, and so many other essential workers who spend time away from their families and put themselves at risk. Thank you to all.
And in South Huntington we are blessed that we have leaders like our superintendent Dr. Bennardo, who rises to every challenge with a well-defined plan, who communicates so transparently and eloquently, and responds to every single parent email. We are blessed to have teachers who care so deeply for their students. We are blessed to have food service workers willing to leave their homes and distribute meals for hundreds of students each day.
These resources will ensure that our schools remain a bedrock of our community even in the most challenging of times. And these resources will help us eventually return to normalcy.
And things will indeed return to normal at some point, even if we cannot pinpoint the exact date. And when we do reopen our doors, hopefully we will be stronger for enduring this crisis, more thankful for life’s blessings, and more appreciative of the little things that we take for granted.
God bless and stay well.