January 2018

Posted: January 19, 2018

Dear Parents,

As the most recent speaker for this year’s Summit on Human Dignity focusing on Understanding Race in the 21st Century, San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who is a Bellarmine parent, gave an address this morning to our students and staff, and then afterwards answered questions that students submitted in advance. After the assembly during lunch today, I met with students in the Arrupe Ambassadors – a service organization of upperclassmen that focuses on what it means to be a servant leader, in the model of Pedro Arrupe, S.J., and St. Ignatius. I asked the guys what leadership qualities had been demonstrated by Chief Garcia. Many hands shot up right away, as students noted that they observed qualities like humility, empathy, meeting with people from diverse backgrounds, inclusiveness, supporting his officers, and many others.

In his remarks, Chief Garcia talked about being proud of having been born in Puerto Rico, raised by a single mother, and serving 26 years on the SJPD. He shared with us how he realizes now how much more he wishes he had known when he started as a member of the San Jose Police in 1992, and how that knowledge has helped shape the training and policies of today’s department. As the Chief said, “we have to accept our past, because it’s the only way we are going to grow.” He said this in the context of understanding the systemic challenges and injustices that have been caused historically by some in law enforcement. He feels it’s essential for him as the Chief, and for his officers, to understand this context so that people can come to a place of mutual understanding and respect, and therefore have better relations in the future. As he noted, an officer’s uniform is not an automatic “trust me costume”; that respect must be earned by officers. He spoke about the need on the part of both officers and community members to see one another as individuals in order to foster better relationships.

After naming an impressive list of initiatives undertaken by the SJPD, Chief Garcia said that as much as has been done, it’s not enough, and it’ll never be enough, because there is always room for further improvement. He also spoke about how important it is for the police force itself to be diverse, so that it will reflect the diversity of the community which it serves.

I appreciated the candor with which Chief Garcia spoke. His comment to all of us that it isn’t enough is also an important reminder to us all that no matter how far we have come, there is always going to be yet more to do. This is reminiscent of the Latin word magis used so often in Jesuit education as we strive always to seek the greater good.

I returned yesterday from the Sophomore Leadership Overnight Retreat with the sophomores who comprise the homeroom I co-lead with Mrs. Connolly. As you may know, this is the first year that we have made the retreat mandatory for all sophomores. The reason we did so was in response to our own desire to do more to help form our students into leaders, one way in which we are pursuing the magis. This retreat, co-sponsored by Campus Ministry and the Christian Service Program, is a direct response to that. On Tuesday, we learned about what it means to be a servant leader – the particular kind of leaders we seek to help form at Bellarmine. We spoke in small groups about the leadership qualities modeled by Jesus, and heard from adult leaders how they have found and grown their own leadership skills. We went on a challenging ropes course, where students were asked to encourage one another to take on new challenges. Then yesterday, students put those notions of service leadership into action as we went to three agencies in San Jose that work with the developmentally disabled. My group worked at the Morgan Autism Center, where students assisted teachers as they worked with the students in their care, 80% of whom are not verbal, but are learning to communicate through the help of technology.

In short (not my strongest suit, I know!) it has been a week where I have learned a great deal about leadership. Monday, of course, provided an opportunity to think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the remarkable leader that he was. He stands as an incredible example of what it looks like to be a leader who puts others before oneself. It was great to be with sophomores learning and thinking about the servant leader model of Jesus, and then truly inspiring to see them exercise their leadership yesterday in service of others. Today, they joined with the rest of the student body in seeing another model of leadership in Chief Garcia, and learning about the kind of role they can play in being leaders who will work with police and other agencies to continue to build the kind of community in which we all want to live.


Chris Meyercord ‘88

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