Each week I aim for 500 words and generally, I’m in the ballpark. This week is an exception and as you read on, you’ll see why. Even though this week’s is longer, I hope you’ll stay with me because it’s about our three speakers at the Seed’s 40th birthday celebration. We selected three inividuals to cover significant focus areas of the school: social justice, sustainability, and community service. With the intention of representing different populations within the Seed, including parents, our board of directors, grandparents, and alums, we invited Allie Bones, Sailesh Rao, and Isabel Strouse. Here’s what they had to say:
Allie Bones, (MSW, chief executive officer of Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Seed parent, board member, social justice advocate) expressed her gratitude for the Seed community and talked about her discovery of the school: “One of the first things I saw was the mission of the school [that] said something to the effect of nurturing children to care for the earth and being part of a community focused on social justice for all. I was hooked immediately.” Allie elaborated on her life work and choices we all have to make: “As a social worker and a mom, my personal purpose is to make an impact towards the liberation of all people. Making an impact – how can I do that? I am just one person. And towards the liberation of all people? That’s a lofty goal that equals social justice for all, something which will take more than my lifetime to achieve. But what I can do is make choices in terms of what we expose our kids to, the types of lessons they learn and discussions they have, and ways in which they can learn to make the world a better place…Making the choice to be a part of the Seed has been one of the best choices I feel that we’ve ever made towards my purpose.”
Allie concluded her comments with this: “The Seed has been our family since August of 2008…One thing is for certain, we are all part of this community and family that every day is teaching these kids to care about the earth, to care for one another, to celebrate our differences, to love, not hate, and how to be a person who can think creatively and critically about how to make our world a better place…I am always amazed by the stories of alumni who are out there in the world carrying on the magic of the Seed. Seeds, who started here 40 years ago, to those who will be here 40 years from now, are the ones who will fulfill the promise of social justice for all.”
Sailesh Rao, (PhD Stanford, founder and executive director of Climate Healers, author, Seed grandfather, global sustainability/climate expert), told the story of Mahatma Gandhi and how he transformed India, and eventually the world, through non-violent practices. He gave the example of Gandhi’s simple suggestion to Indian citizens to change the type of clothing they wore, a suggestion that took down the British garment industry. As this movement generated momentum, other changes followed and eventually India gained freedom from British rule. Sailesh described his current work as director of Climate Healers (http://www.climatehealers.org). He mentioned the question most of us ask ourselves: As one person, how can I make a difference? Parallel to Gandhi’s dismantling the British garment industry, Sailesh is part of a movement to adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle to bring about climate change. For more details, look for Sailesh’s recently released documentary What the Health? (http://www.whatthehealthfilm.com). One of the most touching parts of Sailesh’s speech was his sweet granddaughter spontaneously standing at his side. Her presence was a reminder of the preciousness of our future generations and the urgency to attend to our planet’s sustainability issues.
Our final speaker, Isabel Strouse, (Seed alum, ASU honor student, daughter of former Seed board member, community service activist), spoke on behalf of our Seed alumni. She described her history as a young Seed student, including celebrating her half-birthday in kindergarten: “Other students represented the Earth and the Sun and I circled around them. Events like this, where social celebrations were a chance to deepen students’ understanding of the natural world, were frequent at the Seed.” Isabel spoke about her father and a tree planting ceremony in his honor: “My dad passed away when I was ten years old from a late stage form of non-smoker’s lung cancer…On Earth Day in 2008, …the tree was planted in memory of my dad. I was no longer a student at the Seed, but being back there, surrounded by so many who had known my dad, in addition to those who had not, signified something indescribably special to me…This ceremony was a gentle act of love from a community that was still reaching out to help my sister and I heal and grow, and it was a symbol of the great connection that my father had to this community. It was an act of compassion by humanity, something woven into the Seed’s essence.”
Isabel tied her Seed experience to her current interests and world view: “Perhaps what I’ve gained most from the Seed are my values. The Seed promotes creativity, exploration and intellectual engagement, diversity, a spirit of giving and compassion, and a sense of belonging and responsibility as a global citizen.” She continued by explaining that the Seed’s “wonderful blend of intellectual engagement and artistic expression” stayed with her through high school and college.
Isabel concluded her remarks by telling about her current involvement in two service organizations, Camp Kesem, which provides “a support system for children whose parents have or had cancer,” and “an organization called One Love, which aims to spread awareness about the early warning signs of unhealthy relationships to ultimately bring an end to domestic violence.” She said she wants “to engage with social change the way the Seed implements social justice as one of its core values.”
Isabel left us with a final thought: “The Seed is a community, united in its aspirations for creativity, learning, and compassion – all things that ground us in our humanity.” Each of our speakers touched on this, individually and collectively. In the years ahead we’ll continue putting into practice the threads of social justice, sustainability, and community service, all so wisely articulated by our 40th anniversary speakers.