You’ve just been listening to a song by a band called Elbow. Some of you may have heard of Elbow and I’m sure a lot of you witnessed them performing at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics. The song’s entitled, “Lippy Kids” and comes from an album called, “Build a Rocket Boys”, which are actually the words of the chorus of this particular song. For me the song is about the way many young people in Britain are looked upon today. The verses describe how you and kids your age are perceived as losers; hanging about, drinking, smoking and being cheeky; in essence being lippy kids. However, the chorus reminds us that in fact you have limitless potential and the song challenges you all to make the most of all the talents and opportunities you have; in Elbow’s words, “to go and build a rocket, boys”. In fact, given the gender specific nature of the chorus, this song could have been written about RHS; as I told you all yesterday, there currently a 10% divide in the performance of girls v boys in Public Exams.
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to hear a presentation given by a man called John May who was the director of Young Enterprise. John trained as a teacher and has worked with young people in a variety of situations ranging from schools in England to refugee camps in Uganda. He became a headteacher at just 28, briefly holding the honour of being the youngest head in the country and quickly developed a reputation for regenerating underperforming schools. John now spends a lot of time working with youngsters in deprived areas of London like Greenwich, the venue of Great Britain’s equestrian triumphs, and the place where this school started its life 300 years ago.
During the presentation John May told stories of how teenagers living in high-rise developments in places like Greenwich and Tower Hamlets within eyeshot of the Olympic Park, the City of London and Canary Wharf, have absolutely no aspiration to really better themselves and get on in life. When questioned about desirable jobs in the city, the sum total of their career aspirations was to work for one of the banks or law firms as a cleaner or security guard. John described this group of youngsters as the ‘lost generation’ – the lippy kids – and I found this deeply depressing. John’s May’s talk reaffirmed to me why this school is so special. It gives you all countless opportunities to unlock your potential and never be anything less than you can be; in Elbow’s lexicon; the opportunity, “to go and build a rocket, boys”.
Whenever I listen closely to the lyrics I can’t help but think about my school days and whether I had made the most of the opportunities that were presented to me all those years ago. One of the things that often comes into my mind is my old school’s motto, bone et fidelis, which translated from Latin, means good and faithful. The motto is taken from the New Testament’s parable of the talents and reminds us that we all have gifts and we need to work hard to improve and develop these because one day we will have to give account for what we have done with the opportunities, gifts and abilities we have been given.
In one of his addresses last year, the Chaplain talked about talent and how talent shows are perceived as the doorway to fame and fortune. Millions of people are prepared to risk national public humiliation in pursuit of that dream. Real talent should be celebrated and appreciated. People should not be made to feel humiliated if they truly give their best.
In fact, one could argue that all of our lives are a talent show. You have all been entrusted with talent – not singing and dancing, but talents or gifts like leadership, loyalty, generosity, creativity, encouragement, wisdom and hospitality. Gifts to be used, gifts for which you are accountable and one day will have to give account for that talent you have been given.
In closing, I want to leave you with a short story, which I believe I may have told some of you before.
An eagle flew down from the sky and laid an egg. Not long after, a chicken walked by and hatched the egg and raised the eagle as one of its own. The eagle chicken never learned to fly and scratched around on the ground with all the other chickens. The eagle chicken was happy enough with his lot because he didn’t know anything else. But then one day he looked up to the sky and saw an enormous bird with a massive wing span gliding on the thermals high in the sky. The eagle chicken asked his mate, “What’s that?” His friend answered, “It’s an eagle, the king of the skies and master of all he surveys. He is the most powerful and respected bird in the animal kingdom.” And the eagle chicken replied, “Wow, I wish I could be like that.”
The Royal Hospital School is a coeducational Independent boarding and day school for 11 to 18 year olds set in 200 acres of Suffolk Countryside. http://www.royalhospitalschool.org/