In Syufy Theatre on November 13, Mr. Phillips began a lively talk with an overflow audience of high school students from both divisions, by playing Simone’s song and reading the essay, his unique poetic style reflecting a reverence for basketball. Then, Bob Myers, Warriors president of basketball operations, arrived on stage.
“For me that was special — to hear your words that you’d written down and thought of and find them having great meaning for me because there’s so much we can’t describe in life,” Mr. Myers said to Mr. Phillips. Turning to the audience, he added: “To have a passion for something is important in life. There’s something inside me — inside you I hope — that you are your biggest advocate.”
The panel discussion, moderated by junior Arianna Nassiri and senior Trevor Blanc, was part of a daylong visit by Mr. Phillips in celebration of a “culture of reading,” which has at its heart the Great Texts Canon — a critically evaluated list of titles and mentor authors that invites students to read widely and rigorously across the K–12 curriculum.
Mr. Phillips kicked off his day with a conversation with 20 journalism students. “I don’t know what it’s like to be you guys,” he said, “but you do need to speak truth to power.” He discussed the role of journalists and what makes a good story and offered examples of “low stakes opportunities” to engage with journalism. After graduating, he said, “Hopefully you’ll think about the ways in which you tried your best to be a true person. That’s all I try to do every day when I write.”
Rowan Ricardo Phillips meeting with journalism students.
In an IB Diploma Programme English class, Mr. Phillips showed images of his notebooks, explaining specific editing decisions and his writing process. “I don’t write things down until later,” he said. “The moment you write something down, it’s frozen. It should have to fight for its life.” When asked how he handles obstacles, Phillips explained, “Getting lost is a really important part of being human because finding yourself is really awesome.”
The day concluded with an evening program for parents, alumni and friends of the school. After introductions by Lead Librarian Amanda Walker CES’91 and seniors Eli Mundy and Rose Larkin, Mr. Phillips opened his new book, The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey, to read from it for the first time. “I’m so happy to share this with you,” he said of the book, which was made available to the audience before its November 20 release. “I write things that I stand by.”