(Photo retrieved from saccds.org)

Former NASA associate administrator for the Office of Education to talk about his book at Country Day Conversations presentation

One of the ways Country Day is celebrating Black History Month in 2021 is by hosting a virtual conversation with Donald James, ‘75, a black author and a Country Day alumnus.  

The event will begin on Zoom at 6 p.m. on Feb. 25 and is sponsored by Country Day’s Black Student Union. 

In the virtual meeting, James will talk about his NASA career, life lessons from his mother, and his book, “Manners Will Take You Where Brains and Money Won’t.” James spoke about his book on the website Country Day Conversations on Jan. 21.

He said that the purpose of the book is to offer what he has learned about a fulfilling career and life in general.

Lee Thomsen, head of school, said that the book resonated with the mission of Country Day. He said it was a great opportunity to share with the community.

Director of Advancement Rachelle Doyleplayed an important role in helping set up the event.

“The book is about life lessons that were taught to him by his mother,” she said.

While the book is the main topic for the event, students will be a part of it as well. 

James will be asked pre prepared questions by students during the event, Thomsen said.

“Typically, in something like this, a speaker will get up and make prepared remarks. He may read an episode or a slice of the book,” Thomsen said. Thomsen said that students would be asking James pre-prepared questions.

The event will have discussions and polls to talk about the book and the lessons it gives. 

“First, we’ll start with the group introduction, and then he’s going to start talking about his background,”  Doyle said. “He’d like the group to dialogue together about what life lessons are important as you go out into the world.”

“He will speak somewhat about how being stereotypically smart isn’t everything. How there’s a lot of other things, like hard work and ethics, that you will need to put into life that will take you farther than brains.”

James was the first African American to graduate from Country Day. 

Thomsen said James was chosen because of his willingness to participate in Country Day Conversations and share his book.

“As part of Country Day Conversations, what we try to do is reach out to members of our community,” Thomsen said.

Country Day Conversations are virtual meetings that the entire school is invited to. Usually led by a speaker that is a member of the community, such as James.

James and his book’s involvement with the school happened at another Country Day event, where Doyle was first introduced to him.

“He had participated as an alumni in that. I talked to him about his book and he was happy to be involved with the school,” Doyle said.

His book was also presented by students among the Black Student Union during a spoken word session. 

 “We try to find topics that we find interesting and bring community members together. It’s an opportunity to build community among Country Day parents, kids and faculty,” Thomsen said.

— By Ishaan Sekhon

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