The Legacy That Was The Episcopal School
A Speech Delivered by
By S. Jabaru Carlon
I have the honor to address and salute you, Organizers of this unique gathering of alumni of the Episcopal Elementary & High Schools; and you, friends, guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is gratifying to note that I have had the opportunity to speak to such a group for the second time in my life after the Episcopal High School; the first being to the class of 1975, in Brunot Hall on St. John's Mission - nearly twenty-five years ago.
The sojourn through these schools was a tedious, and at the same time a very memorable and rewarding one; especially for those who made it through, in spite of sometimes seeming insurmountable difficulties. For some of us, this journey began from Bendaja or Mambo, to Mbaloma (these three once called the Episcopal Village Schools), on to Bethany or St. John's for the final lap. Along these pathways some of us encountered or came under the tutelage of such men and women as A. Tamu Diggs of Mambo, T. Bai Sherman, James Kin Freeman, Peter K. Sherman (all of sainted memory), and J. Bai Paasewe of Bendaja; also at Mbaloma were T. Bai Sherman, Arthur B. Abdullai, the Rev. C. Kei Kandakai (the only one alive today) and S. Momolu Kiawu (deceased) whom we also met later at EES, Bethany. Then at the Episcopal Elementary School and the Episcopal High School in Robertsport, the journeyman encountered teachers as Mrs. Harriet Perry King, Mrs. Rebecca Ware Wilson, Mrs. Ola Williams-David, Ms. Eleanor D. Tenbroek, the unforgetable C. C. Barnaby and her Algebra and Chemistry problems, the Venerable Fr. E. Bolling Robertson and his Bible quizzes ("The Prayer Book Reason Why"), Mr. & Mrs. Reed Stewart, William & Louise Travis and the young and vivacious English Master, J. Seymour Flynn. Later on the scene came others like the late Fr. J. Dwalu Kimber, Fr. Edward King, Mrs. Marilyn Robertson and so on. We cannot forget Ms. Edith J. Sloan, even though we do not wish to give you an exhaustive list of those fine men and women who gave of their lives and resources to build those institutions that provided the facilities for our upbringing and our future. May they be abundantly rewarded by the Almighty God.
With an array of such able and fine educators, SOMETHING of lasting significance had to evolve. Accordingly, I have chosen to speak to you briefly tonight from the topic: THE LEGACY THAT WAS THE EPISCOPAL SCHOOL. Given the rigorous education and training that you and I had received at these institutions of learning, their true underlying or main aim may have been elusive, or even altogether lost to some of us. For to some it may have appeared simply that the institutions were set up for spreading the gospel. And I find no fault with that. Also, some people may have seen them only as vehicles to spread Western culture. While all of the above may be genuine objectives for establishing these institutions, for me the sum total of the hard labor, the various types of punishments and the stringent academic experiences we went through was and still is QUALITY EDUCATION, of the sort that one rarely hears of in today's schools; whether here in the U.S. or back at home. The aim of proselytizing and spreading the gospel, therefore, I see as a strengthening pillar which upheld this type of education; which, ladies and gentlemen, I consider as the bedrock of the LEGACY that was the Episcopal School. (And I wish to clarify here that I speak of these schools in their collectivity.) It was Christian education at its best. I am sure most (if not all) of us here are familiar with the motto of St. John's and the E.H. S. that goes thus: "The fear of the Lord (God) is the beginning of wisdom." Indeed, how can we be wise, if we do not know Him who is the source of all wisdom and who is all-wise? Above all, the LEGACY from these schools was to produce men and women of sound minds and bodies - fitting men and women who would adequately face life in its entire vicissitudes.
The underpinning factor of it all - i.e., the achievement of academic prowess, a strong mind and body, etc. - was DISCIPLINE. First it was physical discipline (whippings, farm work, woodcutting and grass-cutting, etc.), later culminating into and effectuating self-discipline, that inner soul and inner force that regulates our actions. Unfortunately, such useful transmutative training tools and methods are today looked upon in many education delivery circles as barbaric, torturous and uncivilized. It is little wonder then that today's youth are fast becoming barbarians who mete out to their fellow human beings, their own kind, multiple wanton killings and tortures. Ironically, the old-fashioned training methods we underwent have made us the kind of civilized men and women we are today. Or am I wrong? Are we, those who were so "savagely" trained and educated, the barbarians? Or are they, who are being trained so "Urbanely", the barbarians and brutes we see and hear of everyday" I dare hold my case for the latter.
I would further argue that what is applied to youth in our schools today is largely benign neglect of character- building, doled out by semi-illiterate professionals. There are so many so-called experts in the school business today, that the "broth" or the "sauce" is almost tasteless. Yea! The Episcopal Schools gave us training and education that developed both the brain and the brawn. At a recent sermon I witness at St. Michaels Episcopal Church in Yeadon, PA, a Nigerian priest so beautifully summarized it in a language of "a contradiction in terms", which I wish to share with you: "Boys do not work hard to be strong; boys do hard work to be strong." For our purpose here, you may wish to substitute "youth" for "boys".
At this point I would like to ask you a question, organizers and fellow alumni: What is the purpose of this and future re-unions? Why, should we continue to gather together each year? Is it meant to bring us together to reminisce our experiences of the past at these institutions and exchange present ones? Or is it meant to get acquainted with various generations of the Episcopal archipelago in Liberia" Or could it be simply to come and break bread together and have fun" I believe it should be all of these and more: For considering the present plight of the infrastructural condition of these institutions, there is need for all alumni and concerned people everywhere to figure out how sustainable assistance can be obtained for the resuscitation, future growth and development of our once great alma maters. In short, we should consider making some meaningful contributions towards the rebuilding of the dilapidated buildings and other facilities that go along with them, so as to make them viable learning institutions once more. In more specific terms, we should consider what contributions we can make to Bendaja Mission, Mambo Mission, Mbaloma Mission, Bethany and St. John's Missions. Those of us here in the U. S. and elsewhere in more affluent societies, who have been endowed with good fortune, must give of our bounties for such a lofty cause. A glaring example along this line that easily comes to mind is the famous Liberian football star, George 'Oppong' Weah, who almost single-handedly trains, underwrites and on top of it all, plays with the Liberian National Football Team, the Lone Star. It is he, at least in recent times, who has made that team a world-renowned side. He takes them all over Africa to play and beat once-unbeatable teams like the Black Stars of Ghana and the Green Eagles of Nigeria. Don't read me wrong; I do not know of anyone from the Episcopal group who is a millionaire, but some of us may be "thousandnaires", The point I am making here is that those of us who have been so fortunate must make contributions that are commensurate with our fortunes. In addition, those of us who may not be so fortunate materially should give of other resources available to us - our time, our labor and our abilities to contact donor friends and organizations. In short, all of us, rich and not so rich, must make a commitment to this lofty cause.
To conclude, let me once more commend greatly the organizers and officers for bringing together the alumni, men and women of the "immaculate blue and white aristocracy". We have all traversed the walls of these institutions with varying, and at the same time, uniform experiences; in a way similar to the fable of the Six Blind Men who went to "see" the elephant. Indeed, the story of these men manifests itself in our everyday lives. No doubt, it is in celebration and commemoration of our days at the Episcopal Elementary and High Schools that we have convened here in Philadelphia, this Labor Day weekend, of September, 2001..
In the interest of the revitalization of these institutions I have entreated all of us to move beyond the rhetoric of our meetings, and ACT on some positive ventures that would give useful assistance towards this end. We must act upon our dreams and turn them into the realities of their existence and continuance. In this direction, alumni like Ms. Rachael Ware (who continues to hold the forte for the EES in Robertsport), Mr. William Bruce, Sr. (a stalwart for support to these schools), Dr. Eugene Shannon, Fr. Allen George in Michigan, Fr. & Mrs. E. Bolling Robertson and the late Counselor Henry H. Baker, as well as his late father, Dr. Christian E. Baker, all deserve honorary mentions. Others include Mrs. Rebecca Ware-Wilson and the late Momolu Jackson Fahnbulleh. Certainly, there are many more such alumni and people of goodwill from our alma maters 1x7ho deserve such honor, Finally, our legacy of a sound mind in a sound body for QUALITY EDUCATION, buttressed by a firm inner discipline must serve as a torch that we must pass on to posterity; even and especially in today's chaotic world. NECROLOGY
As we, the living commemorate and memorialize those days, we must remember those of our colleagues, our friends and relatives who have responded to that finall call from our heavenly Father. They include: A. Tamu Diggs, Arthur B. Abdullal, T. Bai Sherman, Hon. R, Fole Sherman, Senator J. A. H. Jones, S. Momolu Kiawu, Lawrence V. Sherman, A. Kini Freeman, James Kin Freeman, Mrs. Wede Jones-Mitchell, Fr. J. Dwalu Kimber, George Kofi Browne, Peter Kalkpanda Sherman, Jemaima Buxton Sherman, '\,Iomolu Jackson Fahnbulleh, D, Sonii King (who toiled with the E.H.S. during very turbulent times), Dr. Christian E. Baker, Johnny Johnson, Frederick Vaani Seitua, Henry H. Baker, Mrs. Gail Stewart and very recently, Minnnie King, and many others we may not name herein. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon them ... AMEN!
And now in the words of that great English novelist, Charles Dickens, alias John Huf'.'am,, in his classic story of TT-IE TALE OF TWO CITIES - I leave you with words that may be enkindling and reminiscent of our days at those institutions:
It was the best of tines. It was the worst of times, it
Was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness,
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,
It was the spring of hope. It was the winter of despair,
We had everything before us. We had nothing before us,
We were all going direct to heaven, we were all going
Direct the other way - in short, the period was so far
Like the present period, that some of its noisiest
Authorities insisted on its being received, for good or
Evil, in the superlative degree of convarison only.
An Address Delivered by: Dr. S. Jabaru Carlon, Class of 1955 In the City of Philadeinhia - Pennsylvania September 1, 2001.