Today I thought I would be personal. I thought I’d share a bit about my story with Korea. And there are two reasons for this. For one, I encourage my students to share their stories, and so it seems I should be willing to do the same. The second reason is that you are probably reading about North Korea in the news almost daily. I pray hard, very hard, for wise and sound leadership from Kim Jeong-Un and from Donald Trump. Their decisions have the power to impact the neighborhood where I grew up, which you see in this picture here. It is but 35 miles from the DMZ demarcating the division between North and South Korea. That is Daeshin Methodist Church where I was baptized as an infant, actually before that building even existed, and behind it is my middle and high school, Kum Ran Girls School. Today I’d like to share with you a poem I learned as a 7th grader in that building. My 7th grade classroom was all the way in the back. We had 8 7th grade classrooms with 70 kids in each classroom. I learned a lot and I learned a lot of stories.
The poem that I will share with you is by Yun Dong Ju. He lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea and died just before the Korean people had their first taste of liberation in 1945. This is his poem.
죽는 날까지 하늘을 우러러
한 점 부끄럼이 없기를,
잎새에 이는 바람에도
별을 노래하는 마음으로
모든 죽어 가는 것을 사랑해야지
그리고 나한테 주어진 길을
오늘밤에도 별이 바람에 스치운다.
as the wind carried the leaf,
that I would live until my dying day,
without one drop of shame.
Let me love all things that will die
with a heart that sings of the stars.
And let me walk
the path I have been given.
the stars know the touch of the wind.
When I was first introduced to this poem by my humanities teacher, it stood tall for me as a call to conscience. I don’t go to Kum Ran Girls’ School anymore, but I’m still in school, where the stars shine bright at night and where the call to conscience is loud.
Yes, at NMH, the call to conscience is loud. It keeps me alert. It is why I am here. It is why we ask difficult questions of our students and it is why we hold our breath for them to find their answers. It is why we feel pain when collectively we have not done the right thing and have hurt others. It is why I hope you will join me in praying for the Korean peninsula. But the call to conscience is also why we get up each day and try again, this time to do better than yesterday. It is why each day we resolve to love all things that will die with a heart that sings of the stars. Thank you.