Montrose School to National Prayer Breakfast

What do President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Montrose students have in common? An important lesson from social scientist, Harvard professor and bestselling author Arthur Brooks: Love Your Enemies.
On January 30, Montrose School hosted Dr. Brooks for an afternoon and evening of presentations on his widely acclaimed book, Love Thy Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt, sponsored by the Elizabeth Schickel Foundation.

Montrose juniors and seniors joined Dr. Brooks for a roundtable discussion on everything from building bridges across the political divide to the radical prospect of really “loving your enemies.” In the evening, Dr. Brooks spoke to the wider parent community about “The Most Important Thing in Life” and captivated the audience with his wit, his moving stories, and his research into how expressing love can help us forge deeper, more meaningful connections with friends, family, and strangers -- and those we struggle to embrace.

One week later Brooks brought this same message to a divided Washington, D.C., where he served as the keynote speaker for the National Prayer Breakfast. In speaking with both high school students and national leaders -- including President Trump and Speaker of the House Pelosi -- Brooks’s message was the same: Meet your adversaries with love. He warned that a “crisis of contempt and polarization is tearing our societies apart” and noted that “Moral courage is not standing up to people with whom you disagree. Moral courage is standing up to the people with whom you agree, on behalf of those with whom you disagree. Can you do it? Are you up for it?”

This topic has never been more timely or relevant. While it was coincidental that Brooks should be at Montrose at the climax of the presidential impeachment trial, the critical context was not lost on the students. The timing offered students a front-row view not only of history in the making but how, through choosing love, we all have the opportunity to influence history.

Inspired by his visit, Montrose launched its schoolwide Valentine’s Day challenge: Love Your Enemies. Student Government invited Head of School Karen Bohlin to address the school. “As one way to battle the February blues,” Dr. Bohlin suggested, “let’s jumpstart our hearts and rise to Dr. Brooks' challenge of radical love. Let’s live these days leading up to Valentine’s Day differently. Instead of simply wondering if your semi date will send you flowers, let’s show the people in our lives--in our classes, clubs, teams, families--what greatness looks like. Who do we need to reach out to? Who do we need to forgive?”

At the end of her talk, students distributed Valentines to the entire school community with advice from Dr. Brooks' book on how we can practice seeking out those with whom we disagree and make an active decision to meet them with love -- no matter how radically opposed their personal or political views may be.

Hear more from Dr. Brooks on Montrose Podcast.

Dr. Brooks is Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and Arthur C. Patterson Faculty Fellow at the Harvard Business School and columnist for The Washington Post. Before joining the Harvard faculty in July 2019, he served for ten years as president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a public policy think tank in Washington, DC. An economist by training, he has spent decades studying culture and public policy. His work in topics from technical economics to the sources of human happiness has established his reputation as a bestselling author, a prolific social scientist, and an original thinker.