Principal’s Assembly 6 Nov 2018

I’m sure you will be aware that it is election day in America today – I hope the pupils who went on the Aspire trip this half-term got a flavour of election fever in New York and Philadelphia.

Congress, America’s version of our Parliament, is up for grabs, not the Presidency.  In fact, these congressional elections take place half-way through the President’s 4 year term, hence you will hear them called ‘mid-terms’.

Elections involve complex issues.  In this case, you will have heard tales about an immigrant caravan from Honduras, a judge called Kavanaugh and black voter suppression reminiscent of the 1960s.  I thought, by the way, that the Dr Who episode on Rosa Parks did a great job at shaming racist bigots.

In the end, though, elections are not that complicated.  They always boil down to two themes.  Do voters want ‘More of the same’ or is it ‘Time for a change’?

Life in school is not so complicated either.  Last half-term we looked at why working as hard as we can is so important.  This half-term, we’ll look at the other vital characteristic.

Today’s story is both tragic and heart-warming, and is about an Irish Roman Catholic priest who lived through the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.  In fact, an image of Father Alec Reid became one of the most famous photographs from that period of our history.

The events started in March 1988 in Gibraltar, the British territory on Spain’s south coast.  British security forces had tracked alleged IRA terrorists to Gibraltar.  They shot dead three men and women, those deaths becoming the start of a chain of violent events over 2 weeks.

At the funerals of the three IRA members, a member of another terrorist group attacked the mourners, killing 3 more people.  It was all captured by TV crews who had come to cover the funeral.

Three days later, IRA security was tight at the next set of Catholic funerals.  By unfortunate error, two British soldiers, new to Northern Ireland, got lost and drove their car into the crowd of mourners.  They were dragged from their car and ultimately shot.

Father Alec Reid had heard the commotion from his nearby house ad rushed out to help.  There was nothing he could do by the time he got there, other than give the soldiers their ‘last rites’, the Catholic prayers given to the dying.  The photo of Father Reid, bent over the soldiers, went, to use the modern phrase, viral.  Reid went on to become one of the faces of the process that led to peace in Northern Ireland ten years later.

I’ve told you the story partly because Reid is a true hero, not that he would have liked that description.  I tell it partly because of that great act of kindness and compassion at the end of those cruel events.  It’s a picture of hopelessness that in the end led to peace.

Acts of kindness from us, on a day-to-day basis, may seem small in scale.  But you can bring a smile or peace to others with just a few well-chosen words or small actions. Whether you choose to send that text or post that picture or not will have a powerful impact on someone else’s life.

Let’s not over-complicate our school lives.  ‘Work hard, be kind’ will do for me.


May I live this day with gratefulness in my soul, compassion in my heart, creativity in my mind, kindness in my words and diligence in my work.

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