Hello, Cary Academy!

In 1974, a Bell Labs computer scientist by the name of Brian Kernighan first introduced us to the phrase “Hello, World.” It started as a simple statement used to test syntax when learning the C computer language. Since then, “Hello, World” has become ubiquitous in the world of computer science, used as an introductory test phrase when learning more than 200 programming languages.

What an awesome phrase: “Hello, World.” All at once, it is inclusive, optimistic, and forward-looking.

In 1997, Cary Academy burst into existence with a gigantic “Hello, World!” — proclaiming itself a learning community that values discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence. Founded with boldness and vision, Cary Academy proudly reflects some core characteristics of its surroundings.

While the school has certainly come into its own, I cannot imagine a better sponsor and incubator than SAS — an organization borne of intellectual curiosity driven by the dual engines of innovation and collaboration. A company that began when the founders of Google were only 3-years-old and set an early standard for what would later be accepted as world-class organizational excellence.

Cary Academy also embodies the values of our region. The school was fortunate to have the counsel of William Friday during our early days, and his legacy has helped make the North Carolina University system a beacon around the world. Research Triangle Park has not only brought new businesses and innovative ideas, but it has also attracted thousands of newcomers to the area — who have added much through their diversity of cultures and experiences. Those families have contributed mightily to what Cary Academy is today.

It is an honor to join this school during such an exciting time in its history. Our future and vision is intertwined within our founding and our surroundings. Perhaps this is why I turned to the phrase “Hello, World” when thinking about Cary Academy and my transition.

Of course, in the most practical sense, today is an opportunity for me to say “hello” to the Cary Academy community.

Hello is an inherently optimistic word. It symbolizes warmth and new beginnings, even among old friends. … The word “hello” also is symbolic, and many cultures have their own take on the greeting. And here is where I need to give fair warning: As a Scandinavian Midwesterner who has lived in the Middle East, Brazil and Northern Europe, I’ve seen it all — and can get a bit messed up.

Being a good Minnesotan, a normal greeting would be a reserved eyebrow raise. If you are feeling really chatty, you might get a smile and a head nod. Handshakes are accepted for formal hellos, like meeting with your tax lawyer. And hugs? Well, hugs are reserved for grandma’s house, tolerated because it usually means you’ll get cookies afterwards.

(Now, there is a whole different protocol for Minnesota goodbyes, which can last longer than the entire visit … but that’s another story.)

Imagine, then, what this Minnesota boy went through during 10 years in Brazil. When I got to the school was greeted with not just a hug, but a kiss, and not just a kiss, but two kisses (one on each cheek), followed by another hug — a kiss sandwich wrapped in hugs. The turducken of greetings.

Now, I might have been able to get used to this — even if the one kiss or two kiss protocol still eludes me — but we weren’t done. Brazilians also have a generic greeting that can work its way into any conversation: Tudo Bem. Literally this means: Everything Good. It can be a question, tudo bem? — How’s it going? but it is also a statement and and answer: Tudo Bem. You really don’t need both words, and like the hug/kiss, once you get started the greeting can go on and on.

Tudo Bem? > Tudo Bem! > Tudo.  > Tudo. > Bem. > Bem

To get out of the loop, I’d often find myself walking off mid-greeting, with a little over the shoulder Tudo – nod for good measure.

And, if that is not enough, there is the Thumbs Up. This is a legitimate and quite common greeting in Brazil. I think it is used because Brazilians love the hello, but sometimes you just aren’t close enough for the hug, kiss, kiss, hug or for the passing “tudo bem.” So you’re stuck with the across the room or across the street thumbs up.

I like the thumbs up. Any greeting that doesn’t involve the exchange of sweat or saliva seems a better fit for my Midwestern upbringing. I once tried to put the thumbs up in place of a kiss sandwich, but that resulted in slugging somebody in the eye. So ultimately, I learned to love the hug, the kiss, and the thumbs up.

And then we moved to England. All at once familiar and now suddenly so foreign. Handshakes were in. Gone were the hugs. Kisses were OK for close relations, but never two. Cheers replaced Tudo Bem as the greeting that meant just about anything, from hello to goodbye.

The result here is that I can be a bit of a mess, and a hello with me might at any point end with an awkward half handshake, hug, sock in the eye kiss.

But no matter how it happens, a hello is upbeat. It announces an intention to communicate … to collaborate. Hello is inclusive, optimistic and forward-thinking, which I think perfectly describes Cary Academy at this stage in its development. It is an exciting time, and I am delighted to be here and work with you on the behalf of current and future generations of Cary Academy students.

So, if I see you around the campus, give me a nod, a handshake, or a thumbs up. I’m thrilled to be here and ready to say “hello” in any language.

Tudo cheers, ya’ll!