The Andover of the Individual

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.” – E E Cummings For the past four years, I have encountered two Andovers. From one, I faced criticism; from the other, feeble-minded attacks. And as every Commentariate should, I have embraced the former and ignored the latter. Attempts to silence what is said on these pages run more rampant than one would expect on a campus as “open-minded” as our own. For every bold opinion taken, I have faced students and adults who have attempted to intimidate me, with collectivist mentalities, out of expressing my point of view. In articles and editorials, I have sought only to express a new perspective, never to offend. Yet I have faced ad hominem attacks and unfounded accusations on the sole basis that I did not agree to let critical issues lie swept under the rug, away from examination. But I have not, for one moment, allowed myself to be intimidated; I know that in order for Andover to be at its best, each generation of PA students must prove that they will hold their ground, even when the low blows start rolling in. But there has been so much more good than bad. Through Commentary, I have had the most incredible, intellectual, impassioned conversations with individuals—students, faculty, and administrators—who took opposing views to my own, argued for their own beliefs and held their own ground. For every rude response I faced for an article, I received several legitimate contentions which led to the kind of discourse and reflection I came to Andover for. From the first Letter to the Editor precipitated by one of my articles onwards, I knew that Commentary was about finding real, grounded criticism and support, and, in the words of a former Editor, “stirring the pot” of campus discussion. I hope that in my time as a Commentary writer, associate, and Editorial Board Chair, I have not only “stirred the pot” but encouraged others to do so as well. Even more than I desired to express my own views, I sought to empower others with the ability to express theirs. Because I see two visions of Andover, two directions in which we can take ourselves. We can become a community of strong-willed individuals who are not afraid to stand alone in their beliefs and respect the beliefs of others, or we can become a collective activity in mediocrity which seeks to subdue the few who dare to stand aside. I believe that the pages of Commentary are a strong thrust in the former direction. Nowhere else in this community do individuals have as potent or democratic a platform for expressing their views; on these pages, the individual perspective is encouraged and the individual voice is amplified. Phillips Academy, do not let this opportunity go to waste. I am ever grateful for the individuals I have worked with on The Phillipian. Thank you to Adam Giansircusa, for emailing me about Commentary when I was a Junior and subsequently saving me from the terrible fate of becoming a news writer. Thank you to James Sawabini and Thomas Smyth, who stood by me when I first caused controversy, and made me proud of the things I’d written. Thank you to Harrison Hart and Anabel Bacon, for teaching me much more than how to be an editor. Thank you to Ms. Scott and Mr. Gully, for wisdom and treats. Thank you to my parents, for letting me fly. And thank you to Sebastian Becker, for the good and the bad, and for doing work, occasionally. I first officially met Sebastian when we were brought down to the newsroom to take on our positions as Commentary associates. I knew him only from his articles. What I took from those articles was not, however, that he was against the GSA dance or in favor of an all-school study hall; but, rather, that he had guts. I knew that he was someone willing to stand up for what he believed in, despite popular opinion, and that he was someone who would not cow to community pressures. Three years and too many arguments later, I feel that, in some bizarre way, despite our love-hate relationship, Sebastian Becker is one of my closest friends at Phillips Academy. We must seek out and stand beside those individuals on this campus who are not afraid to stand strong, and sometimes alone, in their beliefs. It is those individuals who, in contributing to these pages, work towards the stronger Andover. To the new editors and all future generations of Commentariates: Never, ever, ever back down. Do not back down from administrators, faculty, or your peers. Fight for the Andover built on respectful intellectual discourse between strong individuals. Strive to fill these pages with intelligence, passion, strength, and above all, always strive for respect. When you stand on your own, you are never really alone. The individual is the most important component of any community; may the individual voice always be heard, with clarity, reason, and conviction, on these pages. With love, gratitude, and no regrets, Jenn Schaffer Jenn Schaffer is a four-year Senior and the Editorial Board Chair of Board CXXXII from Bolingbrook, IL.