In 1972, I was fortunate enough to enter what I believe was and is the best high school in the world: the Phillips Exeter Academy. I was graduated in 1975, and went on to other things and other places.
Four years ago, Exeter hired my wife Masami to teach mathematics. We moved here to Exeter that summer, keeping our Virginia home for vacations only. My children have attended Exeter: Clancey graduated last year and Lydia is now in tenth grade here.
I hoped, at the time we moved here four years ago, that Masami’s math position would lead to a history position here for me. That has not come to pass and probably will not. What has happened, though, is another position, adviser to mock trial, which may in some ways be better. It is not full-time, so I have time for research and writing, which are after all time-consuming. And my relations with the more serious mock trial kids are often longer and deeper than a teacher’s relations with students whom she teaches a single term.
This weekend the Exeter mock trial team won the state championship. Watching the kids compete, I could not help but think how fortunate I am–what a gift I have been given–to work with such intelligent, diligent kids. And I also thought about the gifts they have been given: by God at their birth and through their parents, and by this school in their education and friendships.
This same weekend, I watched the Exeter concerto competition, in which eight talented musicians competed as soloists for the right to be THE soloist in the spring concert. Again, the only word for these kids is gifted–amazingly gifted and talented musicians. And then in the afternoon I watched the winter play, Beauty and the Beast, an impressive combination of acting, singing and dancing. This was a different set of kids, displaying different talents, but again their gifts were on full display. The audience erupted in applause at the end, and it was not polite applause of friends for friends; it was “you were amazing” applause.
I am not, of course, saying that kids at other schools do not have gifts: I saw many great kids from other schools in the mock trial championship. But I am very conscious, as I walk the dog around Exeter, of the gift I have been given to be back here at Exeter, working with these gifted kids.