It is very exciting to host John Amaechi, whose message is one of respect. His voice - on the dangers of stereotyping, on the destructive power of language - is a much-needed one, and his address will no doubt underscore so much of what we believe here.
Watertown, CT (Vocus) October 21, 2010
Accomplished author, psychologist and athlete John Amaechi visited the Taft School, sharing insight into the timeless and urgent topics of diversity, understanding and the power of language. Amaechi is a New York Times best-selling author, psychologist and former NBA basketball player. He is a senior fellow at the Applied Centre for Emotional Literacy, Learning and Research (based in the United Kingdom).
Amaechi is the author of the best-selling book “Man in the Middle”, a memoir that follows his inspirational journey from a childhood in England to the heights of playing basketball in the NBA. The challenges and obstacles he overcame to succeed, particularly his experience as a gay athlete, shape his story and provide a powerful message that the Taft community eagerly embraced.
“It is very exciting to host John Amaechi, whose message is one of respect,” says Taft Headmaster Willy MacMullen. “His voice - on the dangers of stereotyping, on the destructive power of language - is a much-needed one, and his address will no doubt underscore so much of what we believe here."
In presentations to students and faculty, Amaechi shared powerful personal stories about issues of identity, diversity and community. Many of his anecdotes related back to his time in school and the lasting impact of interactions he had with peers and teachers. In particular, he highlighted how difficult it can be to be different in school, sharing his own painful memories. He detailed how silence, that which is not said or done to help others, can be just as destructive as words. Central to his message was the profound power of words, both in positive and negative contexts.
In addition to formal presentations to the Taft community, Amaechi spent a great deal of time talking with various student groups. He left a strong impression and inspired students.
"I had the opportunity to walk with Mr. Amaechi around the sports fields during practices, and it was fantastic to talk to him about Taft's vision for the future,” said Taft student Neve Shadler ’11. “He shared this thought with me: ‘Embracing a vision or an idea means that every day we are working toward becoming better than we were yesterday.' Mr Amaechi brought inspiration, wisdom and motivation to every member of the student body and faculty.”
The themes of respect and diversity are woven into daily life at Taft and play out on campus through formal and informal activities, discussions and programs. Beyond campus, students learn through real-life experiences, including many community service activities locally and educational trips to places including South Africa, Guatemala and Dominican Republic.
The Taft School is an independent boarding and day school for 588 boys and girls in grades nine through post graduate. Founded in 1890 by Horace Dutton Taft, younger brother of President William Howard Taft, the school moved to Watertown in 1893. More than a century later, its motto of service—Not to be served but to serve—remains central to the school’s mission today.
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