This remarkable high school chapel talk speaks to the heart of a timely but difficult topic: in order to be fully present to each other and response-able to the world’s deepest needs, we have to face down grief. It’s been a difficult year at Campbell Hall, but with people like Dr. Kocsis helping, we are becoming a closer and more authentic community. – Julian Bull
Both Chanukah and Christmas celebrate the miraculous in human history. This year I find myself both praying for miraculous inspiration and organizing for collective action regarding the challenges of our time.
Good evening family, friends, and Campbell Hall community and happy Monday. So I don’t have a cheesy introduction. I barely have an introduction. Let’s get in to it. I’ll be addressing my classmates, even though they’re all sitting behind me.
Homelessness in Los Angeles has risen sharply over the past few years, climbing from 36,000 in 2012 to more than 53,000 in 2018. Unlike other parts of the country where most of the unhoused live in shelters, the vast majority of L.A.’s homeless population (75%) lives on the street. This has led to thousands of encampments in and around the city, including our own Campbell Hall neighborhood. Passover and Easter weekend seems a fitting time to consider the plight of our local neighbors experiencing homelessness from a holistic perspective.
I was struck last weekend by the particular words George H. W. Bush’s friends chose to honor him. Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and author, said that Bush was a “good and decent man with character, civility, compromise and moderation.” Tom Brokaw said that Bush “was the same in person [in private] as he was in public, he was this modest man...he was so authentic.” Barbara had written similarly years earlier in her forward to her husband’s book of letters, “George H.W. Bush is the most decent, dearest man and the most loving father.”
This summer, Campbell Hall received the coveted “7-Year Clear” status from the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Independent Schools and Colleges (WASC), accrediting the school for the maximum seven-year term with no qualifications or interim visits. The joint CAIS-WASC accreditation process confirms that Campbell Hall continues to meet its strategic objectives and educational goals in addition to satisfying the independent, high standards of CAIS-WASC.
My son Stephen, loves sports-everything about them. Of course, he mainly loves playing them. Now a high school senior, since he could join school athletics beginning in seventh grade, he has been in a sport every trimester: volleyball in the fall; soccer in the winter; track--pole vaulting--in the spring. When not doing school sports, he may go to the driving range or the climbing gym, and in the summer goes on long hiking trips. He's very fit, and while he's unlikely to play anything on the collegiate level, he certainly will play intramurals and perhaps club sports.
Last Wednesday Stephen came home from soccer practice in a great deal of pain, limping badly. A lingering injury seemed to have exploded into something worse. The initial diagnosis was that he might have torn the labrum in his left hip. The next day he went to the orthopedist and received the relatively good news that the problem is a badly inflamed hip flexor. He was told to use ice, take ibuprofen, and totally rest for three weeks. That's where the real pain hit. Only three weeks remained in the season, when the championship tournament would take place. Yes, the physical pain was great. But the real agony sat much deeper than that. Between punches on a pillow, Stephen kept groaning, "I've been playing with most of these guys since kindergarten. It isn't supposed to end this way."
You may have missed a great article in the Daily Herald in December titled, “Why the Balls might not be the best basketball family in Los Angeles.” Sports reporter Mike McGraw has a keen eye for the understated power behind the reserved, gracious, centered personalities of the members of the Holiday family, students, and teachers at Campbell Hall for decades. McGraw is less kind to other local players and families who seem to have lost their way in the fight for playing time and fame, but there’s a beautiful moment in the article where Justin Holiday ‘07 refuses to be drawn into making odious comparisons between the Holiday brothers and other local balling families: “They are themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that to me. Be you. That’s the best thing you can really do in life.”
Often when visiting humanities classes at Campbell Hall I am deeply moved by the quality of classroom dialogue. Through Harkness, Socratic, and other methods, students learn to cite the text and build on each other’s comments, but there is also often an openness and vulnerability of heart that can only occur in a community where trust builds over time. Such classroom conversations illustrate perfectly the balancing of heart and mind in our model, and can lead to quite profound experiences of shared meaning.
Patriotism is rightly an expression of humble aspiration and hope, not an aggressive arrogance. My favorite line in any patriotic hymn is the stanza in America the Beautiful, “America, America, God mend thine every flaw.” Surely we can share admiration for our country’s extraordinary achievements, appreciation for the sacrifices made to protect those achievements, and hope to improve in those areas where we fall short. Our motto as patriots should not be “America: Love it or Leave it,” but “America: Love it and Improve it.”
Erika Christakis is right that “We ignore public schools’ civic and integrative functions at our peril,” but she misses a broader and timelier conclusion: we ignore the civic and integrative functions of any American school, public or private, at great peril to our democracy.
This essay describes my (Rev.Bull’s) best answer to the question, “How do we come to know things, including what is the right thing to do in any particular case? How do we know the different between truth and falsity? How do we know which path to follow on the map?”
The Rev. Canon Julian P. Bull is the third headmaster of Campbell Hall (est. 1944), an Episcopal school in Los Angeles, California with 1130 students in grades K-12. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, his Master’s in Philosophy from Boston College, and his Master’s in Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary. Canon Bull is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church.
Prior to coming to Campbell Hall in 2003, Rev. Bull served as Head of Trinity Episcopal School in New Orleans and as the Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Dean of Students, Chair of the Diversity Committee, and Director of the Senior Humanities Program at Albuquerque Academy. He has served on the Boards of the National Association of Episcopal Schools, the Independent School Association of the Southwest, St. James’ Episcopal School, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, the Steering Committee for the Los Angeles School Heads, the Studio City Neighborhood Council, and has chaired the last two search committees for bishops of Los Angeles. He currently serves as the Chair of the Commission on Schools of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and is on the Advisory Board of the Collaborative for Spirituality in Education. He and his wife Katie have enjoyed raising their two sons as 13-year Campbell Hall students. Rev. Bull enjoys tennis, hiking, and playing bridge in his spare time.
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Campbell Hall is an independent, Episcopal, K-12 all gender day school. We are a community of inquiry committed to academic excellence and to the nurturing of decent, loving, and responsible human beings.
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