Leading from the front
Tomorrow’s leaders are today’s pupils. So as part of their enrichment and growth, we give our girls every opportunity to stand up and be counted. We want them to take responsibility, not just for their own formation, but for that of their peers. That is how they will prepare to succeed in life beyond school.
No role better encapsulates this than that of the head team, which has a collective responsibility to guide the student body throughout the year.
This year’s Head Girls are Serena Dwerryhouse and Frances Budd. Our Vice Head Girls this term have been Bianca Rivero and Emily Pope, with Flora Wordie and Sonya Shats set to take over in the coming terms.
One of the great opportunities available to the head team is leading morning prayers in chapel. To show the depth of their insight into leadership and personal formation, here are some extracts from their reflections.
Frances began her talk by recounting the fable of the crow and the pitcher: a crow is desperate for a drink, and spies a pitcher of water on a rock. The level of the water is too low for the crow to reach with its beak. But rather than giving up, it drops stones into the water, one by one, gradually raising its height. Eventually, the water is high enough for the crow to drink its fill, and it soars back into the skies, refreshed and renewed.]
“Thinking about this fable, it reminded me of the path towards success. At first, you must know your goal; in this case a drink of water. But in order to achieve what you desire you must work, and work hard with a strategy in mind. And yes, at times you will be angry, frustrated, set back. But in time, with clarity of thought, you will find a solution and you can continue towards success.
It makes me think of a quote from St Augustine, who said: “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”
The message here is to dream big. So now that we have all settled into the new year, it is a good time to think of something that you might like to achieve. Your ambitions could be big regarding your exam results or they could be small. But have a dream.
When you’re aiming for a goal, however silly it sounds, you have to start from where you are, right at the beginning, it is only from there that you can build upon your target, and wherever you might go, you should always remember where it all began.”
“Today I want to talk to you about what makes people heroes. But first I’m going to start with a story.
On January 2, 2007, approximately 75 people waiting at a busy subway station watched as a young man suffered a seizure and then fell from the platform onto the subway tracks. Onlookers watched in horror yet did nothing, but a man named Wesley Autry took action.
Handing his two young daughters to a stranger, he leapt down onto the tracks hoping to have time to drag the man out of the way of an oncoming train. When he realized there was no time to move the other man, he instead held him down between the tracks as a train passed over the top of them.
This is just one story of bravery. But I’m going to talk about why only one person out of 75 acted and did not just stand and watch.
After some research I found out that one in five, which is 20 per cent, qualify as heroes in society. 72 per cent report helping another person in a dangerous emergency. 16 per cent report whistle blowing on an injustice, and 6 per cent report sacrificing for a stranger.
Few people do evil but it seems fewer act heroically. But it is so important that we act and take notice of those around us and their needs. It is easy to assume that the next person will help or step in, but you can’t constantly hope this will be the case. As Albert Einstein said: ‘The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.’”
“The 21st century is a golden time for civilisation; we have more rights and freedoms than ever before. People in Europe have never before had the religious freedom, business opportunities and political equality we enjoy today, that is including Jews and other minorities. Yet there is a disease rotting away, one that the world had hoped to see eradicated with the liberation of concentration camps at the end of the Second World War. That is racism and discrimination.
Whilst you may all be shocked by the existing hatred in the world, many of you might be unaware of how to put an end to it. The answer is act. Act against racism, antisemitism, homophobia or xenophobia. Make sure that during your lifetime no one is abused or mistreated because of the minority group they belong to or because of the way they have chosen to live their lives. If you see an injustice taking place before your eyes, act. Put an end to racist jokes, stop judging people by their ethnic group and try to understand the culture of those who surround you.
What is expected from us is to live our lives according to the principles of acceptance, equality and respect. Actions are stronger than words, and one can take part in humanity’s fight against racism by doing something as simple as getting to know a stranger who you at first may not seem to share much with. Small actions can make a difference. Our duty is to act.”
"‘Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins.... Our Christ is alive.’
Asia Bibi used these words to defend her faith against mocking co-workers who tried to make her convert to Islam. She was later convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death.
Asia’s story has been seen before. Many times, she has had an unsuccessful appeal against her sentence, and for a short time petitions and campaigns are successful in raising awareness. But when the heat of the story dies down, it is rarely mentioned in the news. Today, stories of Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and the so-called Marmite crisis dominate the front page news. The stories of people like Asia are quickly forgotten or brushed past because of the wealth of current affairs that must also be reported on.
Of course, news companies are under constant pressure to get original scoops. This means that it is crucial to keep their information topical and fresh. Editors, therefore, must make difficult decisions on what to write about. But a form of censorship is still there.
You might be wondering how this could relate to you, what you can do about it. On a more personal level, we need to be careful about our own mental censors. There are so many people quietly persevering all around us. They aren’t drawing attention to their sorrows or their triumphs. In fact, it might take extra awareness on our part for us to even notice them. Perhaps they even come across as unfriendly or negative. But they are there and they too need our understanding and our compassion.”