Principal's assembly 26th March 2019


Last week, I talked about the importance of raising our level of discourse, not just the way in which we and the media deal with current affairs, but equally the way in which we discuss everyday matters with each other.
I suspect that many of us will have regrets, regrets for the way in which we approached conversations, regrets for losing our tempers or even regrets for not always telling the whole truth. We are human and make those mistakes.
We mustn’t get held back by our regrets, though. Learn from your experiences, but don’t let them take you over. There comes a point when you have to move on and look forward. I really like the quote from the author George Eliot: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
I don’t regret spending so much of my life learning about politics. The trials, successes and failures of humans bring endless fascination as well as frustration. I don’t regret spending so much of my life playing and watching sport. That brought great days, including the opportunity to travel and to play against two giants of the modern game of cricket.
I do regret, though, that those obsessions came at the expense of what would have made me a more rounded and knowledgeable person. I’m sad to admit that I don’t understand great art, I can’t play a musical instrument and have no appreciation of classical music, and I know little about great theatre.
It’s not too late for me. I have a daughter who is interested in all those things and I’m learning with her.
Last week saw World Poetry Day. Poetry might conjure up for you similar images as it used to do for me. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Poetry is actually all around us, whether it be traditional or modern, in song lyrics or in great speeches or even in the prayers of many religions.
Words can be incredibly powerful. Take, for example, Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech, possibly the greatest example of 20th Century political rhetoric. In a very different way, New Zealand’s Prime Minister has shown great humanity and humility in the way that she has handled the recent shooting.
Or take Lennon, Dylan or Eminem as leading lyricists of their generations, of any generation. Sometimes, songs, like speeches, help to sum up the feelings of a nation. Head Boy, Angus, is going to perform one of those songs that has taken on real meaning.
Oasis’ 1995 Don’t Look Back In Anger almost seemed to become part of the healing that was required in Manchester after the Ariana Grande concert tragedy.  “… all the things that you’ve seen will slowly fade away.”
I’d like to finish by asking you to reflect on a tweet I liked a few weeks ago. It was written by former England rugby player, now commentator, Brian Moore:
“I was 14 and laughing at a lad trying, and failing, to do an accent in a play. My English teacher got me in front of the class and said, “Moore, there are those that do and those that sit and snigger. Do I need to tell you which is braver?” I never forgot that.”
One of the greatest aspects of Fulneck life is that we do celebrate each other’s talents, whatever they might be.

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