It is a privilege indeed, that I give a speech at this year’s prize giving day, and for that I thank you, Canon Paterson and the Governors of the school. You have made me realize that there are benefits in leaving what you love most (such giving a speech). I also wish to express my appreciation to all of you present. I know your time is valuable but you chose to be here with your daughters. I have no doubt they will remember this at some stage in their lives. Thank you.
Meister Eckhardt once said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.” This is what I stand here to say to all of you today – not to make a philosophical speech trying to impress you for praises, but what I wish to remember for-gratitude. I stand to express my gratitude to God that, through our life together, I have come to recognise his graciousness in each and every one of you, whom God has blessed me with. As I look back on my relationship with you, I cannot fail to count my blessings of which I am grateful to have received during our time together. I am truly grateful for what I have received and learnt from you, young and old and for that I thank God for you. To be part of this school has given me hope for the future of our children, and for this I commit myself to be your Ambassador and St Mary’s DSG.
So my dear friends, I appeal to you to treasure this God given gift to you (DSG) because it is the well from which our children’s children shall drink wisdom and acquire knowledge. Riches and pleasures that we have and give to our children will perish with time, but wisdom and knowledge will last forever. This is the best investment we can make for the future generations because education is a tool which is usable in everything in this world, of which Nelson Mandela says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” If we believe in these words then education must be foremost in our minds and something we commit to invest in for our children’s children sake. So, please allow me to preface the word “education” with the word “value” in Mandela’s statement – value education.
This is critical to me because just education is limited to intellectual capacity whereas value education, at least to me, means preparing our young learners to be selflessly concerned about the well-being of others, particularly the less privileged. I will explain what I mean by value education later.
I believe we are a lucky nation and our children are most fortunate to have been born and brought up in our country’s new dispensation, which most of us did not even dream of. We have achieved, as we are always reminded, what most new nations did not. A bloodless negotiated transition and agreed upon Constitution that is supported by the Bill of Rights for which we have been widely praised as the best and most progressive one in the world. We have made strides in developing systems that serve the people, of which Mandela said, “We South Africans have succeeded quite admirably in putting in place policies, structures, processes and implementation procedures for transformation and development of our country” (Mandela 2004).
Initially, through collaborative hard work, we were able to create a sustainable economic system which helped with job creation and service delivery. Notwithstanding, today our economy is questioned if it has the capacity “to overcome poverty, inequality and unemployment.” The truth is that it has not failed but it has been made to fail by those who have undermined the values passed on to us by our founding fathers. As a result we have compromised our Constitutional democracy by failing to protect the Rule of Law, and respect the Bill of Rights and challenging our judiciary system, instead greed which has manifested itself in corruption is on the rise – it has become a norm. Unfortunately, it is the very struggle people who are looting the country’s resources because they think it is for their benefit thus their belief that they, “…did not join the struggle to be poor” (Ngonyama).
This kind of attitude and behaviour by our leaders give an impression that tomorrow does not matter, sending a wrong message that we must live for today and for ourselves, when, in fact as a nation, we have a future on which we should be focussing and work towards for a common and shared destiny. Considering where we are and what is happening, I am persuaded to believe that we need champions of the kingdom values to help us, as a nation, to be united in purpose in order to work for the common good, otherwise our children are disempowered from shaping their destiny.
The primary function of the proposed champions, I believe, will be to protect the Rule of Law, defend the Constitution, uphold the Bill of Rights, respect the judiciary system, repair damage done to democratic institutions, and build a strong economic system with a capacity to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor through value education which promotes both social cohesion and social justice. Of course, this cannot be done without value-based education and quality teaching – which must define our core business here at St Mary’s DSG.
And here I want to pause and challenge the Governing Board to put together resources to promote value-based education beyond these premises. By value education, if I may explain, I mean education that is rooted in the Golden Rule – “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” which will prepare our young learners to be selfless leaders who are committed to making this world a better place for all, leaders who are concerned about the well-being of others, particularly the less privileged, holistic and inclusive in nature, of all human aspects such as physical, emotional, intellectual; including spirituality, and promotes social cohesion and social justice. Such a resource can be used to support employee voluntarism and student engagement to under resourced schools in our neighbourhoods.
Working together, I believe we can actually create a better world for all if the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” is to be our moral compass.
There is no question that the government has failed us and the onus is now on us to redeem ourselves so that we may all enjoy the abundance of life Jesus came to bless us with. Redeeming ourselves will require replacing the negative energy we have right now with a positive one. I believe that if we are to make a difference and bring about change for the better, our starting point must be informed by biblical values taught by Christ in the Beatitudes – in the Sermon on the Mount.
I intentionally focus my discourse with you on these teachings of Jesus because I believe that our most critical challenge today is extending the benefits of the biblical values to our neighbours – one another, and I see this as a problem for generations to come after we are long gone. This approach, I think will make us appreciate the past and guide us to the future – answering the question, ‘what must be done to create a better world for all?’
In the beatitudes, Jesus invites us to live our lives on earth in accordance with his teachings which are based on the kingdom values. An important lesson here is how to live life on earth in relation to others – because, as we all know, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.” None lives for oneself. Here, Jesus gives his audience a simple, yet profound principle which is enriching to both the giver and the receiver. This is the Golden Rule, priceless God given gift that must be treasured. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” and not as they have done to you but as you would have them do.
This is about putting oneself in another person’s shoes, which can either be small or big, or just “too ugly” as President Mbeki jokingly said of his predecessor’s boots. Of course, what is being suggested is not easy but do-able with the help of God – with whom there is nothing impossible.
This injunction spells out one thing which Jesus was teaching his followers – righteousness. This is what it means to desire good for the other person that one desires for oneself. In this teaching, “Jesus seeks to channel this primal desire into the recognition that we can only truly satisfy ourselves when we recognize that the same desire in others can and must be satisfied as well” (Tod Lindberg 2007).
Therefore, to achieve this, one must get along with others. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you…” (Mt 7:12). In other words, respect every other person- which is one of the great virtues.
I think the constant question that we must ask ourselves is, “what can I do to contribute towards another person’s righteousness?” – Something we all desire in life. This is the purpose which brings happiness and justice not only to ourselves but those who benefit from our contribution. This is the essence of the Golden Rule, given as a gift by Jesus to his devotees to enjoy in fellowship with others.
Given the discourse above, the challenge is that you and I – collectively and individually must do something to change lives for the better. Just as we would love to have it done to and for us. We must begin to translate our theories into positive actions such as doing something about the things that undermine our Constitutional democracy, challenge our Bill of Rights and overlook our judiciary system.
Things such as corruption which erodes our moral fibre, destroys our infra-structure and disintegrates our socio-economic development and service delivery. All this widens the gap between the rich and the poor. This is the result of lack of job opportunities resulting in unemployment which manifests itself in inequality and places the people in a situation of abject poverty. Surely, this is not what we desire and/or wish for ourselves.
The good thing about the Golden Rule is that it talks to all people without exception. And this means that we can apply it in our daily lives by treating others the “same way we want them to treat us.” This is the challenge of education offered to our children.
An alternative, of course, is to provide value based education with the capacity to transform us as a nation so that we all enjoy a dignified life in everything God has blessed us with. God has created us equal and therefore we should treat each other as such. The saying that “all men are created equal but some are more equal than others” is misleading. All it tells us is that there are people out there who are not prepared to contribute towards the improvement of other people’s quality of life and close the gap between the rich and the poor. This belief and practice to treat others as inferior simply means that it’s okay for one to have more so that the other has less. This is greed and it is wrong and has no justification. This is why we must commit ourselves collectively and individually to do the right thing without expecting gains – what is there for me attitude, which is influenced by political culture of entitlement, must not feature in our vocabulary. The Golden Rule is not about satisfying ones material wants but for the common good.
I hope by now most of you agree with me that the Golden Rule, Do to others as you would have them do to you,” is the preferred way of life and a means by which we can attain what we wish for ourselves; that value based education is a tool by which human beings are capacitated to achieve the full potential life that contributes towards establishing God’s kingdom where his will is done. So, if we accept and embrace the Golden Rule and commit to act on it, “the leap we take is not simply one of faith, but of expectation that people knowing themselves how they want to be treated, will come to understand that the only plausible way to guarantee such treatment for themselves is to treat others the same way” (Ted Lindberg, 2007).
I conclude this discourse by challenging you to stop talking but start applying the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” in your daily life and see if this world will not be a different and better world in which you are a blessing to others as they are to you. I thank you for listening and I pray that God blesses you with charitable hearts. Thank you.