Principal's Assembly 21st April 2021
Good afternoon everyone,
A new location for today’s assembly: a change is as good as a rest, as they say!
Inevitably, the death and funeral of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has dominated the media and many people’s thoughts over the last few days.
My personal favourite story of the Prince comes from the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Author Paul Brandus tweeted the story, taken from his book The Death of a President.
On the weekend of President Kennedy's death, Prince Philip flew to Washington, D.C. for the funeral. On Sunday, November 24, Jacqueline Kennedy was wandering the White House, looking for her son, John Jr. She opened the door to his playroom to find the Prince playing and laughing on the floor with the almost 3-year-old.
Apparently John Jr had said earlier that he 'didn't have anybody to play with' and Philip decided that he would entertain the boy, reflecting the warmth and sense of compassion that we have heard so much about recently.
A life stretching back to 1921 witnessed so many other era-defining moments.
From the rise of Hitler, World War Two, the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the modern War on Terror.
From the Great Depression to the banking crisis of 2018.
From the AIDS epidemic to this pandemic which impacted so obviously on the arrangements for his funeral last Saturday.
His lifetime also saw public attitudes to the monarchy change rapidly and certainly a loss of any kind of private life for the Royals and many others in public life.
That is just one very significant change that we have seen in the last century in the UK. Note also:
The loss of Empire and a very different position for Britain in world affairs.
Medical advances that have aided average life expectancy to rise from 49 in the year of Philip’s birth to 81 today.
A women’s rights revolution – in part driven by more medical advances in terms of the development of birth control – but which clearly still has a long way to go in the battle for equality.
A civil rights movement in Northern Ireland that pre-dates Black Lives Matter by some 50 years but provided a model for peaceful protest.
The legalisation of homosexuality in 1967, though other significant rights, including that to marry, are much more recent.
Major technological advances, especially around the internet and AI.
And, less welcome of course, climate change.
Perhaps Philip’s age gave him some perspective on these changes. Perhaps it confirmed to him that change is inevitable.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” I’d suggest a third thing: change.
We all have change coming. Some of us still have to adapt to the strange new processes around exams – and I would like to thank Mrs Carver and her team for adapting so quickly by putting into place a system that gives our Year 11s and Upper Sixth several chances to show their ability.
Some of us will move school. Some of us will go to university or change jobs. Some of us will undergo major changes in our personal lives. Some of these changes will be good, some will be hard.
In our lives, we always have options. One is to do nothing, ignore the change and hope it goes away. Another is to fight the change. Neither are really options that will lead to good personal outcomes. The only real option is to be positive, adapt and then thrive.
The sooner we accept that change is inevitable, the more chance we have of moving with the times.
Allistair McCaw starts a chapter of his book called “Winners Embrace Change” by quoting Stephen Hawking:
“Intelligence”, said Hawking, “is the ability to adapt to change.”
McCaw goes on to write: “If you aren’t ok with change or being uncomfortable, you will never make the most of your potential and talents … you will always hold yourself back from becoming the best you can be.”
It’s not always as easily done as said – and we’ll talk more next time about “how”. For the remainder of today’s tutor time, however, I’d like you all to think and talk about changes coming your way, and how you can approach them.