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Accessing Accountability

September 26, 2014


I was sitting in Tad Roach’s office this week when Jo Graves came in to report that a few little boys on the Front Lawn had just broken a light above a door into Founders Hall. Two of the boys were my 5- and soon-to-be 7-year old sons whom I had foolishly trusted to occupy themselves in a less destructive way.

Jo quickly led us to the crime scene where I found my older son standing there looking embarrassed, but mainly fearful of the consequences sure to follow. Within all my immediate fury blossomed pride. He knew he made a mistake and was ready to suffer the consequences. It’s incredible how the tenor of a situation can change so dramatically when people hold themselves immediately accountable.

This morning’s papers are filled with tragedies made worse by people quick to downplay their failings, point fingers or both. As a law and business school graduate I understand the negative implications of admitting wrongdoing, but the latest news out of Pennsylvania has me wondering just how far we’re willing to go.

One theory is that we deflect and deny to save face, to keep our reputation intact. I’d argue that showing the courage to admit mistakes and willingness to suffer the consequences should only strengthen our reputations.

Generations of St. Andreans have learned how deflecting and denying is the quickest way for a relatively minor event to become a major issue. It was a lesson Will Speers and Nan Mein taught me early in my III Form year and one that Jon O’Brien, Dave DeSalvo, Lindsay Brown and many others continued to reinforce.

It’s why I feel so good when I see a St. Andrew’s athlete help an opponent off the ground instead of arguing a foul call. I’ve been known to spontaneously hug a confused student after they admit a mistake and apologize. Their character is revealed in those moments.

My son is going to help pay for the light. I’m sure he didn’t think he’d survive the moment he looked up and saw me and the man he simply calls the “Headmaster” staring down at him, with only the broken pieces of the light between us. Obviously he did survive and I’m confident his days of throwing sticks at lights are over.

Note: For those wondering, my younger son was nowhere to be found when we arrived. If we were living in a cartoon we would have seen a Road Runner-like trail of dust curling around the building and out of sight. We’re working on it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Nikki Stryker permalink
    September 30, 2014 12:24 pm

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Thanks for sharing Will!

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