Honor - The Currency of Relationships

David Williamson, Honor Council Advisor / Science Department Chair
Edited transcript of speech given at the Upper School Honor Code Signing Ceremony in August 2019.

Honor tends to be a nebulous term that students hear often but can struggle to connect with its meaning. Those schools, like O’Neal, who are governed by an honor code, take extreme pride in its presence. I’m hoping this speech sheds some light on how honor is so critical to everything O’Neal, to everything in life.
“Honor” - It is something that we often recognize in each other, but may struggle to define. I think of words like honesty, trust, fairness, and integrity. You may have similar words that jump to your mind. However you define it, we can all agree that honor is the cornerstone of the O’Neal community, and so much of what we do at school is based on our honor code. Many of the things you may take for granted, such as bringing electronics to school, eating outside, having a school store, getting an extension, or asking friends for help on assignments are only possible because of the high expectations to which we hold each other and the honorable way that we carry ourselves.
Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, once said, “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” There is this selflessness to honor.
Honor is the most valuable currency we have as humans; it is the currency of relationships. It is what we use to judge each other and the type of people that we are. Living in a community that values honor brings us support, and a sense of ease by being able to trust those around you. And you’d be wrong to think that honor doesn’t buy you anything.
I’ll give you some examples. You are daydreaming during a quiz and happen to be looking in the direction of another student. You can be sure that the teacher will take into account your honor before deciding if you were cheating or not. In this instance, honor bought you the benefit of the doubt. You make a comment that a classmate misinterprets, they’ll consider your honor before determining how upset to get. In this case, honor bought you understanding and compassion. You visit the library or student center during a study hall. In this case, honor bought you freedom.
As a school we take time every year at this honor code assembly to cement in our minds this most important piece of our school community, the glue that holds everything together, and as you sign the honor code today, take a moment to reflect on your own honor and the impact it has on the school community around you.

Dave Williamson has been at O’Neal since 2009, joining the school first as a science teacher, and then becoming a department chair. Prior to coming to O’Neal, Dave worked for four years with Clemson University as an assistant director at the RM Cooper Youth Learning Institute, where he ran outdoor education programs and summer camps. He has bachelor degrees from Skidmore College in Environmental Studies and Computer Science, as well as a Master of Arts degree from UNC Pembroke in Science Education. Dave has always kept a connection to both the outdoors and youth in his life, and you can often spot him enjoying the mountains and shores of NC during school breaks. If you happen to ever find something that crawls, slithers, hops or runs, show it to him, he¹ll be excited to see it.

He wrote an article about "Finding Flow in Your Summer"  for the O'Neal Faculty Thoughts blog.


Serving Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Whispering Pines, Sanford, West End, Aberdeen, and areas surrounding Moore County, NC.

The O’Neal School
3300 Airport Road
Southern Pines, NC 28387

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