COLUMN BY MICHAEL E. HILL
Each week I have the privilege of writing a letter to the Chautauqua community exploring what we’ve just experienced and what’s to come as we progress through our Summer Assembly. As we close out each summer together, I have two opportunities to reflect with one: the closing Three Taps of the Gavel address and one last column. I’ll save most of my thoughts for Three Taps (no, not the eatery and gathering space you’ve come to enjoy — the speech)!
Today, I want to share with you far wiser words than those I might pen. Each summer of my presidency, I have invited young people from Children’s School to the President’s Cottage to share their thoughts on the future of Chautauqua. I have one of their letters framed in my Washington, D.C. office — it takes up a seven-foot-tall pillar. These youngest Chautauquans annually deliver to me what I call the “Children’s 95 Theses.” In their words I see the hopes and dreams of not only today’s Chautauqua, but the Chautauqua of tomorrow.
For my closing column to you, I share their words, which contain the passion, joy and longing for all we’ve experienced and all we hope to experience. I thank them for their annual reminder of the best in human values. I thank them for grounding me in my promise to be a servant leader for this sacred place. I see in their eyes all the reasons to push forward — even through a global pandemic — to make sure Chautauqua endures.
Thank you for a great summer. I hope to see you in the Amp for Three Taps (or online if you cannot be with us). To quote these little ones: “We love Chautauqua! And don’t worry, we’re coming back next year … YOU BET!”
Dear President Hill,
Thank you for taking the time to meet with your 2021 Children’s School Advisory Board, made up of the 5-year-olds of the Blue and Yellow Rooms. We understand that you’ve had a lot going on in the past couple years and that life during a pandemic is still a bit crazy. With all that in mind, we thought we would carry on the tradition of offering a few revitalizing recommendations, as well as reminders of why this place is so special. We love Chautauqua and are so proud that we can help you make it even more wonderful!
A few things we love about Chautauqua are …
- Being here with our families (especially the ones we haven’t seen!)
- The Bell Tower and bats
- Riding the bus
- Beaches and boats
- Riding our bike
- Reuniting with old friends and making new ones
- And of course … Children’s School!
Here are some ideas for potential improvements:
- More dirt so we can plant more flowers
- Build a giant playground with a petting zoo
- Add more trees so people can breathe better
- Another bookstore with toys, too
- Boating lessons for kids
- More children’s books at the library
- Fewer cars (so we can bike and play safely)
- Throw Chautauqua an even BIGGER birthday party
- Even more trees so we can have more books!
- (Maybe we should make a tree zoo?)
- More BATS and BUTTERFLIES and BEES!
We understand that these may be a bit beyond what you can do, but just in case, we’d like:
- To make all the bad people nice
- Help the homeless
- Donate toys to kids in the hospital
- No more pandemics, please
- Children’s School all year long!
It’s been a long year, and some of us didn’t have the chance to be here last year. While this made us sad, we are so grateful to be here with family and friends, all safe and happy. Let us know if there is anything we can do to help make your job a little easier. Thank you and your staff for all your hard work that allowed us to be here again.
We love Chautauqua! And don’t worry, we’re coming back next year … YOU BET!