A Few Comments about Leadership and Common Ground

When asked about two of the institutions I love, West Point and Breck, I describe them as strikingly similar - not because I view Breck as militaristic.  Rather, from my perspective, both embrace the values of character, courage, and service in their devotion to the mission of graduating our next generation of citizen-leaders, and more importantly, leaders of character. 

In thinking about what it means to be a leader, I would offer that a major component of true leadership, whether at West Point or Breck, is about identifying, celebrating, and cherishing Common Ground.  The concept of Common Ground was brought home recently when, thanks to the generous support of Bill and Penny George, Breck welcomed the internationally recognized religious leader, scholar, and author, Dr. Eboo Patel.  Dr. Patel spoke extensively of the power of finding Common Ground, particularly in divisive times. 

As we are surrounded by the drumbeat of incivility from countless sources, Dr. Patel offered a much needed reminder of the many “humanizing values” that we Americans share, such as “the dignity of labor, the fundamental equality of human beings, mobility based on drive and talent, [and] the opportunity to create and contribute.”  And, in reminding us that the best leaders find Common Ground by drawing their circles wider, he offered the wisdom of Edwin Markham and Pauli Murray:


Viewpoint Quote

When I think of Common Ground for those attending West Point, the list is simple. Love of country, defense of the Constitution, dedication to service, and a willingness to protect and defend that which we love.  Good military leaders rally their teams on this ground. 

What does Common Ground mean at Breck in 2019?

We are intentionally a place of many different religions, races, genders, economic resources, and political beliefs.  And, while it is shockingly easy to allow these differences to divide, we are also animated by many of the same fundamental ideals, a few of which I’ll call out here: 

Every parent who chose to entrust Breck with their child did so in the belief that Breck would value the attributes their child brings to the community and enable them to become the best version of who they were meant to be. 

They chose Breck because they wanted their child to be intellectually curious and to be pushed and groomed as a critical thinker.

They chose Breck because they wanted their child to understand multiple points of view and cherish genuine civil discourse.  

They chose Breck knowing that the Episcopal foundation upon which this institution rests is unapologetic in its belief in the concept of many paths to God - that their child would leave with the ability to respect the religious choice of others and with a fuller understanding of their own.

They chose Breck knowing that this same foundation rests on a bedrock belief in equity and the importance this commitment would play in enabling their child to be a thoughtful citizen of the world. 

They chose Breck because they wanted their child to take his or her place in the world as a leader of character. 

I offer these as our Common Ground.  And while this Common Ground isn’t without tension or disruption, when used as our rallying cry - when we sing with that voice - we recognize that our differences are not so much discord as the harmony that makes our school (and country) one of the most unreservedly special of places.

So, in the middle of all the political noise we face these days, let’s be courageous and draw our circles wider to embrace our Common Ground – for as Winston Churchill would remind us, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it guarantees all the others…”

And, the world needs more Mustangs.


Jill E. Schurtz
President, Breck Board of Trustees


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