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Andrew Solomon Opens Principals Conference

Andrew Solomon brought down the house at the TCRWP’s first Principals Conference. After listening to his opening keynote, the 250 principals and superintendents who convene one Wednesday a month at Teachers College all rose to a standing ovation, many with tears streaming. “We’ve heard some amazing speakers,” one of them told Lucy, “but none have come close to this.”

Andrew Solomon, professor of psychology at Columbia University, is the author of Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, a book that has won an impressive number of awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award. Far From the Tree chronicles extraordinary children and the way their parents found meaning not in spite of the challenges in raising them, but because of these. Andrew Solomon’s other publications include the Pulitzer nominated, multi award winning The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression and the novel A Stone Boat, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award. Andrew Solomon’s Ted Talks have garnered over ten million views.

In his address, as in Far From the Tree, Andrew proposed that being exceptional is at the core of the human condition. He spoke about the many communities with whom he has worked—families coping with children who don’t fall under the social norm because they contend with deafness, dwarfism, down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or with multiple severe disabilities; or who are gay or transgender, prodigies, criminals. He spoke of the power of love to dominate over prejudice, and of the way in which the universal experience of dealing with difference can, in fact, unite us.

Throughout his talk, Andrew reminded us that “the love for a child is like no other love” and that “we take care of our children because we love them, and we love them because we take care of them.” As we begin a new year, already anticipating the many challenges of the children whose families entrust us to guide, teach, and yes, love, we couldn’t have asked for a more powerful message. With luck, Andrew will return on March 19th to keynote the Project’s 90th Saturday Reunion.