Board Chair Reflects on ‘Hope’ in Opening Remarks

Hillside in the sunlight. A woman faces the sunlight with her arms wide open. She holds balloons in her left hand.

Contributed by Dr. Al Cohen, Chair of the Capital Region ESD 113 Board of Directors at the December 8, 2021 board meeting.

Last month, I attended the Andrea Bocelli concert in Seattle. It was the second time I had been to a Bocelli concert, and, like the first one I attended, this past November I was not disappointed. He’s such as great singer and performer. One of the songs Bocelli sang this year was his version of the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It was spectacular!

I must admit that I’m a softy when it comes to certain songs. For example, I love songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “I Believe,” “The Greatest Love,” and “Smile.” All these songs have been around for quite a while and have been sung by scores of artists, but they never get old to me. In fact, they continually inspire me. In a word, they give me hope.

Viktor Frankl spent three years in four different concentration camps. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he describes how he was able to survive under such inhumane treatment. Frankl discusses strategies such as portraying a future, having purpose, and controlling one’s attitude. Furthermore, Frankl addresses the importance of focusing on love and hope.

Over the past 22 months, the world has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic. Worldwide there have been over five million deaths due to this virus. In the United States alone, there have been approximately 755,000 thousand deaths tied to the virus. The pandemic has built a wedge between Americans regarding so many behaviors: mask or don’t mask, stay six feet apart or not, get vaccinated or don’t get vaccinated, and a series of mandates or no mandates.

The pandemic seems to have accelerated the divisions and has become integrated into the fabric of our social, economic, and political arenas. Our teachers, administrators, support staff, and school board members have often been the ones who have had to bear the brunt of this divisiveness. In many school districts, school board meetings have become battlegrounds. Throughout American history, we have overcome tremendous challenges, and I trust we will overcome the challenges associated with the pandemic.

Let us remember the writings of Viktor Frankl—future, purpose, attitude, love, and hope. Let us remember the lyrics of the songs that have provided us inspiration and hope. Think of Bocelli singing: “When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark.” Educators of all stripes are heroes. Thank you for giving all of us the hope that is so desperately needed.