Principal Calls For Unity by Parker Kehret
McNary High School Principal Mr. Erik Jespersen called for unity in the Keizer and McNary community following the wake of the 2016 presidential election.
He delivered his remarks on November 10 to a Living History Day assembly in the McNary High School gymnasium, in front of the student body, staff, and roughly 30 visiting armed service veterans.
The contentious election battle between candidates, Secretary Hillary Clinton and President-Elect Donald Trump, divided the nation–a divide that spilled into the hallways of McNary High School.
“We’re going to disagree from time to time. We’re going to have different points of view from time to time. You know that. You know what I’m talking about, and that’s okay,” Jespersen said.
McNary has 2034 students and 150 staff members, Jespersen said. These are people who need to continue to live and work together for a common goal.
“We represent all kinds of different beliefs, all kinds of different people, all kinds of different backgrounds,” he said. “But the reason why McNary High School is so world-class, and it is world-class, is because we are all one. That doesn’t mean we’re all the same, but it means that we’re all one as we come together. And that’s what makes me so proud to be a member of this team.”
The purpose of the assembly was to honor the veterans that have served in America’s armed forces. Living History Day is an annual event held the week of every Veteran’s Day at McNary High School that brings local veterans to share their experiences with students. Jespersen connected the event with the national election.
“It’s because of these people that we’re able to have the world-class high school that we have today,” he said.
Jespersen noted that Americans have the right to peace, liberty, of free expression, but with those rights “we also have a responsibility to take care of ourselves.”
“We have a responsibility to look to your left, and look to your right, and look out for one another, because we are McNary,” he said. “We are Keizer, and that’s what makes us so special.”
Jespersen later said in a post-interview that giving an extemporaneous speech like that is a “delicate dance,” when considering his job as a principal is to remain non-partisan.
He said he is in the position of promoting robust political dialogue while making sure all students feel physically and emotionally safe when they come to school.
Senior Tarik Naccasha, who helped organize the event with the leadership class, was concerned about the protests and violence that has erupted since the election.
Naccasha said Jespersen’s speech had a good message.
“It is really empowering because America does need to be unified,” Naccasha said.
Junior Hakam Nagra said “We can’t show enough to the veterans how much we appreciate them.”
McNary High School German Language Teacher Mr. John Mangan also said Jespersen’s speech struck the right note.
“I think it was outstanding. It was an important speech. It’s extremely important that bigotry, racism and bullying is not allowed. It is not who we are. We are better than that. Jespersen pointed that out very nicely,” Mangan said.
Jespersen began his presentation by thanking Mr. Dan Borresen and his leadership class who helped organize the event, the McNary band conducted by Mrs. Jennifer Bell, and the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, led by Major Robert Garcia and Master Sergeant Robbie Ellis.
Jespersen pulled veteran Mr. Bob Wickman to the front of the assembly for special recognition. Wickman has visited McNary’s Living History Day for 16 consecutive years. He served in the Navy and Marines in his military career, which lasted, as Jespersen said, “three years, nine months, and nine days,” Jespersen said he asked Wickman earlier in the day how long he had served, and Wickman had no trouble recalling the time to the day.