When Eliza Hamilton was 47 year old, her life was in shambles. Within the few years prior, Eliza had lost her oldest son, Phillip, and her husband, Alexander, both in duels. Both of her parents and two siblings also passed away. After her husband’s death in 1804, she was forced to pay off his debts, and even lost the Manhattan home she had shared with him for many years. Many of those around Eliza assumed she would leave New York City behind and spend the rest of her life quietly mourning her losses.
Eliza, however, had other ideas. She was a thinker and a doer. She did not want to be defined by the loss she had suffered, or the scandals she had been dragged into during a tumultuous time in American history. She thought about what was important to her, and what she wanted her legacy, and that of her husband’s, to be. She persevered through the pain and leapt into action. She raised funds for the Washington Monument in D.C. She, continuing her husband’s legacy, spoke out against slavery some fifty years before the Civil War.
But, of all the things she did, the work Eliza was proudest of was her work with children. In 1806, she, together with several of her prominent friends, established the first private orphanage in New York City. At the time, orphans often ended up on the streets or in almshouses where they were forced to perform labor in order to eat. However, Eliza’s organization changed that. The Orphan Asylum Society of the City of New York took care of children and raised them in a loving, secure environment. They worked hard to set up the children for success.
That organization is still in existence today. It is now called Graham Windham and, for 200 years, it has taken care of and helped thousands of New York City’s most vulnerable children. Think of what could have happened to all these children without Eliza Hamilton and her friends.
This year’s theme at Brimmer and May, Inspiring Thinkers and Doers, does not just apply to your work in the classroom. I hope you will think this year about how you can do good for others. The news in the last few months has been filled with people who are in need and are hurting. Riots in Charlottesville; flooding in Houston area due to Hurricane Harvey, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico, and we are just beginning to see the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and Florida. It is easy to look the other way and disconnect from these events, but I encourage you to use this year’s theme as a call to action. How can you make a difference? How can you help those in need the way Eliza Hamilton did? You have many opportunities here at Brimmer and May to give back, and I hope you will take advantage of those opportunities this year.
I am pleased to announce that the Middle School will be partnering with the Greater Boston Food Bank this year for our community service initiative. Every student in the Middle School will spend a day at the food bank helping to fulfill their mission to end hunger in Eastern Massachusetts. I am very excited about this work, and I would like to thank Mr. Van Atta, the 6th grade Dean, for overseeing this effort.
As we embark on the 2017-2018 school year, think about what you can do to give back, and put those thoughts into action. Be like Eliza Hamilton. Remember that actions matter. Uphold our core values in all you do, and don’t let setbacks or heartache get in the way of thinking, doing, and giving back.