This week, our Upper Campus community launched into a new facet of their remote learning program: WISCR Wednesdays. This new addition to the weekly schedule is intended to encourage a feeling of togetherness (in a time when we’re quite separated) as well as to promote the overall well-being of our students. WISCR Wednesdays have been set aside as a day for students to engage in interests and activities outside of the academic week. Students can choose to participate in individualized academic support with teachers, health and wellness sessions, student- and faculty-led clubs and workshops, and assemblies and spirit events put on by the student council and ASB.
For today’s launch of WISCR Wednesdays, Mr. Lemmon gave the community a real treat by bringing in a special guest speaker: his old friend (whom he described as “an actor, philosopher, and philanthropist”) and everyone’s favorite beet farmer, Rainn Wilson!
To begin the interview, Mr. Lemmon asked Rainn about his memories of being 16 years old and in high school. Rainn shared that he had transitioned from one school to another during his high school career, allowing him to reinvent his image as he embraced his interests in the arts. “We’re never a slave to other people’s perceptions of us,” Rainn reminded our students. As he engaged with new opportunities in acting, he “found something [he] was good at, a supportive community, and a path.”
Discovering his gifting and passion for acting didn’t lead to immediate success or a cemented identity, however. After being cast as a lead in a Broadway play at the age of 27 and quickly developing grandiose visions of greatness, Rainn realized that he “really sucked” in his role and that his dreams wouldn’t be coming to fruition any time soon. Just because Rainn felt the personal disappointment of failure, however, didn’t mean that he could walk away from his commitment to the show. Despite bad reviews and Rainn’s misery, the play continued to run. “I had to suck it up and power through,” he recalled. But Rainn looks back on that painful experience as a necessary one that ultimately helped set him free. After the play came to its end, Rainn rejected the idea of being a certain type of actor and embraced a commitment to being himself. It was that decision, he feels, that led him to quirkier comedic roles like the one for which he’s become most famous: as Dwight Schrute on The Office.
Rainn, a man of the Bahai’ faith, explained for our students that his spiritual journey – which he described as “a huge and important part of [his] life” – motivates him to work in service to humanity. He sees his role as an artist as part of that service. He spoke to the fact that, during this time of fear and uncertainty in the world, he feels grateful that his role on a beloved television show is bringing solace and laughter into people’s lives and homes. For Rainn, his cultural contribution as an outrageous, clown-like character named Dwight Schrute was, in his words, “a spiritual act.”
Rainn’s desire to live in service to humanity didn’t end with an iconic role that has entertained the masses for the past fifteen years. In an effort to make the world a better place, he has created SoulPancake – what he describes as “media for good” – and founded LIDÈ, an organization that provides arts and literacy education to adolescent girls in impoverished Haiti. Rainn encouraged our community to consider the issues we’re most passionate about and to see the first step toward change as what we’re doing at Pinewood: empowering young people by providing them with an education.
Mr. Lemmon’s final question for Rainn related to the health crisis in which our world now finds itself: “Where do we go from here?” Rainn responded with a hopeful challenge to see the pandemic as an opportunity to break through fear and to celebrate the “rapid ‘planetization’ of our world” – an opportunity to come together in love and unity. He called his audience to see climate change as an even bigger global challenge that we need to be mobilizing for and fighting against now.
Rainn ended his inspiring talk with an encouragement to our students to use their unique gifts and passions to make the world a better place. “We can all do that,” Rainn said, “We can all give back and help one another.”
Thank you, Rainn Wilson, for the gift of your presence for our very first WISCR Wednesday. As a gesture of our sincere gratitude, Pinewood will be making a donation to LIDÈ Haiti.
We look forward to seeing the many ways our community will continue to help each other as the pandemic stretches on. WISCR Wednesdays will serve as a wonderful forum for students, parents, and teachers to come together in that positive spirit.
- Student Life