Editorial: Diversity in Connolly’s Concord

Published: 8/23/2018 12:05:13 AM

Earlier this week, Concord High School students shared their memories of their former principal, Gene Connolly, who died Sunday of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Connolly was an inspiring, big-hearted leader who led a life worthy of celebration. One of the things that he celebrated was the increasing diversity of the school he led and the collapse of barriers to the inclusion of everyone, of every ability, faith and color in the life of the community.

The Concord High community, and Concord itself, is much different than it was in 2001, when Connolly became the school’s principal.

This observation, shared with the Monitor by Rev. Jared Rardin of South Congregational Church, whose daughters attended Concord High, leapt out.

“I’ll never forget my daughter’s graduation ceremony in 2013 at which it was announced that for the first time in Concord High history, over 10 percent of the graduating class had been born outside of the U.S.,” he wrote in an email. “The cheer that went up from the bleachers was, at least for me, a testimony to the culture of openness and welcome that Gene helped create.”

That statistic, 10 percent of the student body foreign-born, is a fraction of what it is in many, if not most, states in the nation. White people, however one chooses to define what is a color, not a race or ethnic group, still make up the overwhelming majority of the population of New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, the Dakotas and a few other states. But that, in time, will change.

More than one-third of the students attending Manchester High School Central are members of a minority.

Changing with the demographics are American attitudes about homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion rights, interracial and interfaith marriage, social conventions, religion and the value of immigration.

Younger Americans, especially the millennial generation born between 1981 and 1997, who now outnumber the baby boomer generation born between 1946 and 1964, are much more tolerant and accepting of differences than their elders.

Even a generation ago, it was common for a New Hampshire native’s first encounter with a member of a minority to come as a member of the armed forces or as a university student. That’s no longer the case.

Diversity, for the young, is a fact of life.

The United States, as demographers pointed out years ago, is en route to becoming a minority-majority nation. Millennials, who are just beginning to pick up the reins of society, will serve as the bridge between generations to a more diverse nation, one we hope, when the current paroxysm of nativism and division passes, will grow comfortable with the new reality.

The route to a more united nation, one of many colors, lies in embracing not our differences but the shared belief in the principles of all Americans, new and old, that all of us are created equal, that all have the right to pursue happiness, to embrace the faith of their choosing, and to revere and defend freedom for all.

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