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First Assembly of the Academic Year

Posted on 10th September 2013


Our assembly theme for this half term is “Making It Happen”!.

This is my favourite day of the year.  The start of a new School year.  The day when anything and everything is possible.  The day when we can really “Make it happen”.  It is like my metaphorical Birthday, but it is also – as it was last year and the first day of our School year – my literal and actual Birthday, and of course, that makes it an even more special day for me.

“Making it happen” can mean many things.  I have a card in my office, which reads as follows:

“Look famous, be legendary, appear complex, act easy, radiate presence, travel light, seem a dream, prove real.”

I don’t know about you, but I have always found it very hard to travel light!  I like the card because it speaks to all of us about being remarkable, doing things which might seem impossible today but which with confidence, resolve and hard work, can indeed be achievable tomorrow.  I also have this poster in my room, and it’s in a few other rooms in the School. It reads as follows:

“This is your life.  Do what you love, and do it often.  If you don’t like your job, quit.  If you don’t have enough time, stop watching tv.  If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.  Stop over analysing, all emotions are beautiful.  When you eat, appreciate every last bite.  Life is simple.  Open your mind, arms, and heart to new things and people, we are united in our differences.  Ask the next person you see what their passion is, and share your inspiring dream with them.  Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.  Some opportunities only come once, size them.  Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them so go out and start creating.  Life is short.  Live your dream and share your passion.”

I love this too.  It speaks to me of not settling for second best, of accepting no compromise and of acting with purpose to make things happen.  I hope it inspires you too.

These are all fine words, but I think it is crucial on this most important of school days that I speak out unequivocally, what I believe is needed to “Make it happen” at CGS.  We are an extraordinarily fortunate school, and you, as members of our community – as students and staff, are exceptionally blessed, too.

We have it given to us, as few institutions or communities do, to be a “city upon a hill”, to be a beacon to others, to set and uphold the highest of standards, to be known for our excellence and our consistent pursuit of excellence.  And this is because of you – our students – and your talent and because of you – our staff – and your ability and commitment and quality.

But beyond this talent and this quality, we need more; other ingredients to “Make it happen”.

We need honesty and a preparedness to face up to things as they are, to confront our weaknesses, confront mediocrity, a lack of ambition and any undermining of our purpose to succeed.

That takes moral courage: an elusive and rare quality.  But we do have a School Cup for it.  We need an appetite to set ambitious goals for ourselves and the resolution to work hard to achieve them.  Most of all, we need to act as a community, in concert, in harmony so that we can “grow through sharing”; helping those who falter, offering our own insights and imagination, learning from the skills of others.

Honesty, moral courage, an appetite for hard work, and a sharing with others of our talents will take us there.  And it is a cause which is well worth fighting for.  It is well worth “Making it Happen.”

I want to end with one of my favourite readings, an extract from a speech made by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1910.  He refers to “man” and “men”, we should take this to refer to “woman” and “women” too.

The Man in the Arena 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Roger Hale

September 2013