Ryan Sears '18 returned to a familiar spot at Ransom Everglades: behind the podium on the Lewis Family Auditorium stage. There, where he had opened so many upper school assemblies as student body president during his senior year, Sears addressed RE students on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and urged them to extend that legacy with thoughtful action. At the conclusion of his talk in honor of the MLK holiday, he received a standing ovation.
Sears, a sophomore at Harvard University, began his address on Jan. 21 noting how greatly he had been inspired by King as a youth. He tried to offer deeper insight into King's work and impact than typically conveyed in what he described as a straightforward and sanitized narrative of King as a moderate, non-violent, non-disruptive leader – "our own American Gandhi."
"King's legacy," Sears said, "is much more complicated than the framework we've been offered historically." King, he explained, had been a wildly unpopular and radical figure whose denunciations of deep-rooted societal and political ills caused him to be venerated by some and viciously opposed by most.
"My exhortation, and I believe King's exhortation as well, is to recapture that revolutionary spirit, to vehemently oppose political apathy, to oppose poverty, racism, militarism, sexism ... and to open our world view to empower the voices of the weak, suffering and marginalized, the weak and vulunerable."
His talk came a day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a day of service for many students at Ransom Everglades. Dozens of students, faculty members and parents assembled at the middle school to assist the Little Dresses for Africa student club and faculty advisor Doreen Johnson; volunteers fashioned little girls' dresses out of donated pillowcases. Other RE students, including members of the boys' lacrosse team, gathered at South Hialeah Elementary School for the City Year Miami's Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
That service was emblematic of the path Sears urged RE upper schoolers to take.
"We have to confront where we are right now. What are our values right now as students?" he said. "What is our purpose here? ... We need to be more direct and intentional in our educational experience."
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.