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How To Citizen

By Jennifer Fogarty, communications content manager and video by Rachel Baxter, digital media and design coordinator
Students from Tiny Torreys through Grade 12 participated in LJCDS’ annual Citizenship Day.
On November 11, LJCDS students schoolwide participated in Citizenship Day 2021. The day celebrated and recognized each student’s role in the community and their capacity to bring about meaningful change as active, engaged citizens.  

Keynote speaker Baratunde Thurston spoke about reimagining the word “citizen” as a verb—a collective action. Just as one person can’t play football alone, Baratunde pointed out, we can’t citizen alone; it’s a team sport. Baratunde outlined four pillars involved in what it means to citizen, each of which informed one of the workshops that students participated in after his speech.

The four pillars of How To Citizen are:
  1. Participate: Show up for each other and publicly participate in ways that include and go beyond voting.
  2. Build relationships: Deepen relationships with yourself, the community, and the planet and experience how it’s all interconnected.
  3. Understand power: Harness your personal power. Be fluent in power and the various ways it can be used for our collective benefit.
  4. Make choices for the collective: Work toward outcomes that benefit the many—not just a few.

Baratunde started as a comedian while at Harvard and became a contributor and head of digital at The Onion. He also served as a producer for The Daily Show and is an Emmy-nominated host and New York Times bestselling author. Most recently, he is the executive producer and host of the podcast How To Citizen with Baratunde, which Apple named one of its favorite podcasts of 2020.

Citizenship Day kicked off with Middle and Upper School students gathering on the football field to hear Baratunde’s opening talk. “How we conceive of or create a culture around democracy, how we feel connected to each other determines how we live together,” explained Baratunde. “We’re trying to do something very difficult; we’re trying to live together with all kinds of differences, and that’s hard. We’ve got language differences, spiritual differences, body type differences, different tastes in food.” 

Despite our differences, Baratunde spoke about honoring our unique viewpoints and disagreeing with dignity. “We’re never going to all agree. … We can disagree about matters as serious as budgets and as silly as pineapples [on pizza] and still live together, and still thrive together, and still grow together. I want to live in that world.”

During an engaging Q&A session with students, one student asked about how Baratunde manages ignorance and resistance. “One thing that’s helped is having a community of people who I know support and love me,” he shared. “Whenever we face resistance, it can also make us feel more alone and invalid, and we’re like, ‘Am I the crazy person here? Am I not experiencing what I’m feeling?’ That's a hard place to be, to have somebody deny a part of you. Find people who accept you. Be among that energy, because that’ll help recharge you—because you’re always going to find some of that in the world.”

After the morning keynote, Middle and Upper School students broke out into their advisories to discuss and reflect. Students also participated in a service-learning project. Torreys wrote letters to active-duty military and first responders, decorated baby clothes and blankets, and made paracord bracelets.

In the Early Childhood Center and Lower School, students began the day by watching a video that Baratunde recorded especially for them, before reading books related to the four pillars of How To Citizen. Ideally, students in the Middle and Upper School would have then joined them in their classrooms to discuss the books they read and talk about what it means to citizen. Due to COVID-19 protocols, these discussions had to be virtual—using FlipGrid, the Lower School students recorded their thoughts and ideas and the older students then listened and responded. The Lower School students recorded more than 900 videos on FlipGrid, which in turn received more than 12,000 views and over 80 hours of student engagement (and counting!). These discussions will hopefully be a springboard for years of continued conversation and engaged, active citizenship. 

Watch the video recap of Citizenship Day 2021 below.


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