Opening Service: Why do YOU Mask?
Katie Morton

Dr. Kreutziger addressed our students-- both in person and via video recording-- at the Opening Service and discussed superheroes and masking. Most superheroes wear masks, correct? What about everyday superheroes? We can be heroes by wearing our own masks and keeping the community safe and healthy.

Read a transcript of his words to the students below:

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Welcome back, everyone!

And welcome to our opening ceremony that officially rings in a very special year. With the coronavirus, hurricanes and everything else that makes this year feel different from others, I’m so thankful to be with you here at St. George’s and for this school year to finally begin. I’m also really excited this morning to have with me our incredible 8th grade both on campus and at home!

Can any of you guess where we are? For those of you new to St. George’s, you probably don’t know. This is Salem Church’s sanctuary, here on campus not too far from our theater. This is where we always hold our opening ceremony and ring in the new school year. Usually, just about our whole school congregates here for this ceremony, but this time we have to do things differently, don’t we!?! It’s taking some getting used to, for sure, all these differences, but difference is not always a bad thing, is it? Some changes are good, even if they don’t always feel good, particularly if there’s a good reason for them and those changes help others.

Perhaps the thing that feels strangest right now is wearing our masks. Here I am, speaking to all of you and trying to say something that will set the tone for the year, perhaps even be inspirational, and yet I have to cover my mouth to do so. My words are muffled, I have to speak louder than normal, breathe harder, and it’s pretty darn uncomfortable. Especially when I’m outside in the sun during carpool or pickup, it gets so hot and sweaty inside these things! Some days, I just want to throw my mask in the trash can and never put it on again.

I was feeling this way about 20 minutes into carpool the very first day of school, and then I saw a 2nd grader by the name of Gregory get out of his car with a red face mask on with a yellow thunderbolt in the middle. If you’re a superhero fan, you of course know this is the symbol of The Flash, the DC comic superhero and the fastest man on the planet! That made me smile. I love The Flash, but I love even more that Gregory was wearing a superhero mask as his very own facial covering.

It made me think about superheroes in general and ask myself, why do so many of them wear masks in the first place? The Flash, Spiderman, Batman and Robin, Catwoman, The Green Lantern. For many of them, it’s of course a disguise; they are hiding their true identity. Wonder Woman and Superman and a few others don’t wear masks, but that’s because they can hide in plain sight by looking like everybody else around them. Just by wearing glasses, Clark Kent is unrecognizable as Superman. That’s not the case with Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker, who have to wear their costumes in order to keep their identity safe and save the world behind their masks.

They also wear their masks as armor! Think about Iron Man. It gives a layer of protection against the bad guys who would do them harm. But maybe most importantly, when they wear their masks, it is their symbol of change, of transformation. They go from being human to superhuman, normal to extraordinary, a special power in the universe. Think about the Black Panther as an example, When King T’Challah transforms from the noble, wise leader of Wakanda into the Black Panther suit, look out bad guys!  

But let’s also think about the heroes who are behind the superheroes this morning. We all were shocked when we heard of the recent passing of the great actor Chadwick Boseman who plays King T’Challah in The Black Panther, and who also played such iconic black historical figures as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall. He was one of the greatest actors of his generation, making a black superhero movie come to life for the first time in film and selling more movie tickets than any single superhero movie in history, and we never knew that whole time that Chadwick Boseman was fighting cancer. He didn’t let cancer take away his gift to the world and even made The Black Panther while he was sick, and didn’t tell his fans. He is now the superhero of a whole generation of children who may themselves grow up to put on their masks and transform the world, sharing their talent and special powers. 

 

This is certainly the case with Matthew Kincaid, the founder of the organization Overcoming Racism that is working with our faculty this year to make St. George’s a better place for all. Matthew this weekend shared the story of how he was so inspired by The Black Panther that he took 280 students in the city to go see it when it came out in the movie theaters two years ago..  As a young boy, Matthew, too, was into superheroes, but he wasn’t used to seeing superheroes in movies that looked like him, and this movie changed everything. He wanted to share the movie with as many people as possible. He also talked about how he didn’t hear when he was in school about how you can become an entrepreneur when you grow up and own your own business, and now he does. He said,  “You can absolutely be the hero of your own story,” and now his organization Overcoming Racism works with other schools and businesses all over the country helping them to be fight racism and become antiracist superheroes themselves. Matthew Kincaid embodies my favorite line from The Black Panther, when King T’Challah addresses the United Nations and says, “We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”

Isn’t that what this year is all about, what really makes it special? Haven’t we found a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe? Here’s my point.  If you think about it, we all get to be superheroes this year! We all get to mask up! Why, after all, are we wearing masks, or even washing our hands and being mindful of how close we are to each other? We are protecting ourselves, of course, wearing our masks as armor, but we’re also protecting our family and friends, mothers and grandfathers and classmates, yes, but also our teachers and, really, when you think about it, our entire city, our entire nation, even the whole world! That’s a pretty awesome superpower.

We might not be fighting Thanos or The Joker or The Green Goblin, but the coronavirus is in some ways an even nastier villain. It may be tiny, tinier even than Antman or The Wasp, but it is an enemy nonetheless that we get to fight and defeat just by donning our masks.

I also want you to remember all the superheroes in our lives right now, those who might be hiding in plain sight but can be seen if you look closely.

When the coronavirus attacked us in March and we all had to go home, think about our maintenance team or Ms. Margie who stayed here and kept the building running so that we could all return this year. Think about your teachers who still taught you even when their own children and families were at home with them and working as well. Think about Ms. Vera and Mr. Kenny, who looked after the school during DragonCare and kept us safe. Think about your parents, too, who were still doing their jobs so that you can do yours as a student. And don’t forget all of our health care workers, many of them also your parents, the nurses and doctors and medics; the sanitation workers and grocery store clerks, delivery drivers and mail men and women who kept us healthy, clean, fed, and supplied with the things we’ve needed to live and survive these past five months as we’re all fighting the pandemic and the coronavirus together. There are so many superheroes disguised in plain sight, wearing their costumes and going to work for you. Now you get to do the same!

So St. George’s, when you wear your mask this year, make it big, make it superhero big! Be a superhero. Ask yourself, why are you masking up? What is your cause this year? Maybe you heard about how Hurricane Laura, that was supposed to hit us last week but instead hit Lake Charles a few hours away and left many kids and their families without power, without water, without schools to return to and possibly even their homes. Maybe that’s your cause this year. 

Maybe you want to fight racism or injustice in your school or in the world just like Matthew Kincaid and be a superhero that way. Maybe it’s to stop bullying, or maybe you mask up just to protect your friends, your family, every human being in whole world. Wearing a mask this year is that heroic! 

So what is your cause this year? Why are you wearing your mask?

Our 8th graders got us started by making their own drawing of their superhero masks, and I’d like you to join them this morning. 

 

Let’s have some fun with this and use our imaginations, which is one of our greatest superpowers. You get to create your own masks today. As you cut them out and draw them and make them, ask yourself a few things:

  • Who is your superhero? Who do you become when you put on your mask?

  • What is your secret superpower?

  • What’s your cause?

  • Who are you fighting for and who are you protecting?

I leave you with this thought. And when we all do this individually, we together embody the spirit of St. George’s. The whole school becomes a heroic place, our own Justice League, if you will. The coronavirus is the monster we fight, but we have an even greater purpose than that. We can lend the shield and armor of St. George’s to all who need our protection, including each other, and we can raise our sword for all the things in the world worth fighting for. I think we can make this an incredibly special, incredibly powerful year.

 

  • 8th Grade
  • COVID-19
  • Dr. Kreutziger
  • Tradition