Today we said goodbye to the Upper Sixth, who left in an emotional whirl of hugs, tears, laughter and ice cream. I always watch them go with a mix of pride, admiration and anticipation, knowing we have done our best to prepare them for a happy and rewarding life and the future is theirs for the taking. However I cannot resist one last attempt to set them off on the right track.
Many of our leavers will not be familiar with Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen, the cult hit that begins:
Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience….. I will dispense this advice now.
Here is the advice I offered to the class of 2013 in their final assembly.
Dear almost-Old Persean
Your A Level exams are almost upon you. Exams can put you off learning for life, but learning should be life-long. Try and learn something new every day, ask questions, search for answers, and never stop acquiring knowledge. Find intellectual interests everywhere, and excite your mind. The more you know, the more you will realise how little you know. To stop learning is to stop living.
Value what can’t be counted. Don’t judge jobs by their salaries, or people by their income. What matters most in life is the human spirit; love, kindness, consideration and care are all more important than a big bank balance and a large house.
Cherish your family and friends. Your parents may not be up to speed with contemporary culture, but with age comes wisdom and a different perspective; beware the arrogance of youth and seek advice from others. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Value your friends and work at friendships; shared experiences can be a great support scaffold in the uncertainties of life.
Seize the day and live your ambitions. Do not let fear of failure put you off; failure is your friend. It is a sign of ambition, of the willingness to push boundaries to make progress. To quote Beckett, “Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better”
Oppose prejudice in all its forms. Gay / straight / black / white / fat / thin / male / female / British citizen / foreign immigrant are all irrelevant distinctions. It is how we behave that matters.
Be open and honest. Listen to the views of others; accept constructive criticism and recognise that in a group situation the combined power of many minds will be greater that your own. Be truthful in your interactions with others, but take care in communicating the truth for sometimes it can hurt. Chose the time and place for conversations.
If in doubt do nought. Our 24 / 7 instant access society demands quick responses, but take time to consider issues carefully and avoid heat of the moment reactions. Doing something quickly is usually worse than doing nothing at all.
And finally, back to Baz:
“Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.”