We began the Mount Madonna School Government in Action program in 1989 to provide our students with a personal understanding of government and a more accurate and complete picture of those who devote their lives to a broad range of public service activities. Over the years this program has produced remarkable results far beyond anything we initially envisioned. As can be seen from the brief comments below the students return home inspired and transformed by their experience.
Today our program has evolved into an even deeper inquiry into the values that drive a life of service and meaning. We have re-titled the program, The Values in American Thought Tour to connect it more closely with our unique two-year “values” dialogue for juniors and seniors at Mount Madonna School. More recently our students have traveled internationally to interview thought leaders in other parts of the world. Last year as part of a joint project with the Dalai Lama Foundation, they traveled to India to interview the Dalai Lama and the President of India, as well as the American Ambassador to India David Mulford and respected Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande. This journey will be the subject of a full-length documentary to be released this summer. Even more recently a group traveled to Ecuador to spend time in the Amazon Rainforest to learn first hand about the issues facing that region.
On alternate years we come to Washington, DC where we have been fortunate enough to attract some of our nation’s finest public servants. We look for those who are vitally involved in trying to improve the quality of life in our nation and around the world, and who have the qualities of character and dedication that will inspire and inform. Our interviews usually last 45 minutes to an hour. The students come prepared to ask intelligent and stimulating questions. We are most interested in understanding why people have chosen to make the sacrifices that go along with public service and to discover what they have learned along the way that might be helpful to those just setting out on the journey. Whenever possible we like to videotape our conversations so they can be shared with other students through DVD’s and our student generated web site. Currently we are working on a new curriculum titled, Exploring a Life of Meaning that will include many of our interviews.
The Washington, D.C. experience has become an important a rite of passage for our students; something they eagerly look forward to as a part of becoming responsible adults in their community. Most importantly it changes forever the way they look at public servants. As each year unfolds we are discovering new opportunities to broaden the scope and impact of this program. This year, we will be uploading every day to a student run blog, and to a web site sponsored by our local newspaper. In 2006 to everyone’s surprise we had more than 5000 visitors to the website during our journey. Please visit values.mountmadonnaschool.org