Tuesday, November 24, 2009


For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.
The eyes of all people are upon us.

- John Winthrop
1st Governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1630

This is perhaps the most famous quotation of any of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which, famously, was officially settled by the Pilgrims in 1620. That fateful and ultimately successful experiment began a wholesale settlement of the region by the English over the subsequent years. John Winthrop, who was a Puritan was commissioned by Oliver Cromwell's court to preside over the territory as governor. He served on and off in this post for nearly 2 decades.

The importance of this quotation, part of a longer sermon to his shipmates upon the near conclusion of their voyage to theirs new home, was that it has become the primary citation of an idea known as American Exceptionalism. This idea promotes the view that America is uniquely enbued among nations with qualities and gifts that make it special. This is a notion later expanted by Alexis de Tocqueville and recently remembered in the words of President Ronald Reagan.

In a way we can metaphorically look upon our Learning Centers as "institutions upon hills." We inside each Center occurs exceptional things - uniquely successful to children in need. And, as then, the eyes of our communities are upon us. Will we let our Centers fail? Indeed not.

(For a great book about Winthrop and his contemporaries, you might look for The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell.)


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