Everyone has a stake in this

Julie Brown

Julie Richardson Brown (BF '12) B.A., M. Div., community integration coordinator, Family Scholar House

Bingham Fellows 2012 February program day

I arrived for day two of the 2012 Bingham Fellows Opening Retreat before the sun had even come up, fumbling out of my coat and stumbling towards coffee on automatic pilot. Only a few others had arrived and it was still quiet, so I slipped over to the enormous windows lining one side of our meeting room.

We were at least twenty floors above ground-level and as I drew up close to the windows a wide expanse of the city of Louisville appeared. Cars were beginning to populate the interstate. Activity had begun in the streets below. Things hadn’t quite exploded into a busy city weekday yet–but you could feel it coming. Feel the just-before-full-dawn energy building. To my right the sun was climbing up out of the horizon, a brilliant hot pink and orange. To my left a flock of wild geese–so completely out of place–flew high and fast over office buildings and hospital towers, disappearing into morning clouds almost before I realized they were there at all.

It was a big-picture moment. And I could not help but think, as I stood there letting coffee and time do their work on my still-sleepy body and brain, that it was the most perfect of places to set about the task of being a Bingham Fellow. An ideal spot to think, “common good,” “whole community,” “all in this together.”

We’re charged with thinking about how we might–as an entire community here in Louisville–set about encouraging and supporting parental and community engagement in student achievement. And then, doing something about what we come up with–putting thought into action in a way that encourages our students to do and be their very best, that helps families see that education is both a family and community project, and a lifelong process. No simple task.

It is safe to say that intelligences, emotions, tempers, personalities and anxieties are running high from the get go. Everyone has a stake in this. Everyone has a child or a grandchild or a niece or a nephew or a friend involved in our education system. Everyone wants the best for their own children, but also for all children (and yes, I really do believe, at our best selves, we want what’s best for them all). And because those of us who comprise the Bingham Fellows class are all driven and passionate people–leaders in our work places and individual communities–we also all have our own supposed ideas of THE most important part of the problem and perhaps even, THE solution to it all.

And what we really have to be able to do is get all of that out of the way and position ourselves so that we can see big-picture–high enough and wide enough that our own stuff gets lost in what it means to be about the common good.

It will not be easy. It won’t even always be pleasant. And I imagine that somewhere along the way at least a few of us will want to quit. I also know—I can already tell from two days together–that we’re up to the task. And that somehow we’ll manage to think beyond ourselves and into what it means to be part–just part–of the village raising our children here in Jefferson County.

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