Delivered by Ms Carol Alpert
Good afternoon everyone, Mrs Goedeke, esteemed guests and most importantly matrics 2023.
As I thought about what to say today… For a split second, I considered, Chatgbt? – no way – never. Instead, I turned to the multiple pages of inspiration I save in a document called LIFE!
I recently went to see The Promise, (for those of you who have read it, Esther?) at the Homecoming Theatre, a play based on South African author Damon Galgud’s novel. An extraordinary piece of theatre –, a raw, honest reflection of our country. A week later I read a message posted by one of the members of the cast, the highly acclaimed actress, Kate Normington. She spoke of a South Africa that is full of stories, a country that tells those stories, with a “dusty Karoo honesty”. She says that the dust on our feet is made of diamonds, and that we did not need an American songwriter, Paul Simone to tell us that. “The Promise” is just one story; our country is made up of many.
It made me think of how you, the Matrics of 2023 have brought your individual stories to Herschel, adding to 101 years of stories. You entered this narrative in 2019. It has taken 5 years and here you are on the brink of writing the conclusion to your chapter – titled ‘high school’. We have all watched, including every new brood of goslings, as you navigated your way. From the onset of your grade 8 year, there were whispers of – “this is a wonderful year of grade 8s.” To quote Ms Barendse who was your grade 8 head at the time “The grade 8s are really lovely they are going to be a breeze.” These very words have been echoed by the staff for the past five years. You have been an extraordinary group of young people, and I promise you we don’t say this every year. I sat at the back of the chapel at your final Eucharist yesterday and there was a sense of calm and respect – it was an example of the kind of quality individuals you are.
Day by day you tackled that first year at high school, gravitating towards the fountain whenever you were doubtful, but it did not take too long before your stories began to take shape only to be derailed by the nasty C – and I am not referring to your favourite rapper. From March 26, 2020, South Africa was in hard lockdown and our realities changed dramatically. You became jelly tots on our computer screens during the online lessons. It was not easy. The planning for your high school story did not include this. Yet we all got through it and celebrated the first day we could throw away those dreadful masks and look at one another.
What this experience did was to prepare us for the highs and the lows the laughter and the tears that you will face later on in life. As characters of your own story, you have been an inspiration to others – you have been instrumental in playing multiple roles, in class, in sports, in iconic Herschfield days, on stage; Oh my word Jordi how can I ever forget the nipple hair? Playing musical instruments, Rebecca for introducing the Battle of the Bands. – singing and dancing, debating – Keryn, rewriting the SRC constitution – leading, Susy, Liney and Lalitha, thank you for your inspirational leadership. Remember what Susy said BE KIND.
What a joy.
All that these chapters in your lives have done is prepare you for volume two of your narrative. These past five years have been the guideline to your future. The mistakes and triumphs along the way were necessary, the friendships forged wonderful. Beth and Amanda can we please stay out of the wrestling ring. I hope that each one of you found moments of absolute joy.
And now- life outside of the Herschel walls – I do hope we have prepared you for the real world as there is no fountain to go to when you are doubtful. There will be some metaphorical fountain out there – and you will find it.
And actually, does it really matter whether Hamlet was mad or not? Was there a tiger on the raft with Pi? What exactly did Dylan Thomas want to tell us in Fern Hill?? I loved teaching every matric class as you brought your individual understanding to the poem. Matrics I apologise for the unseen poem, “Pigeons”, I set in the June exam, but promise me that you will find a bench in a park and watch the pigeons – maybe one day when you are old and doddery.
I want to suggest that you live life to the fullest. I remember five years ago telling each new grade 8 class to go home and play and to look in the mirror every morning and say to that person looking back at you just how incredible you are – there is and will always only be one of you. Dance wildly, sing loudly, laugh and cry – take off your shoes and let your toes touch the earth; and yet isn’t it even more important to be giving that same message to you now, as 18 year olds.
And now to return to my document on LIFE I would love to share some wonderful advice from the a Doctor of Contemplative Education and author, Parker Palmer —whose writings beautifully reflect on inner wholeness and the art of letting your soul thrive – he says:
- Be passionate about some part of the natural and human world – take risks on its behalf and fall in love with life.
- You all have so much to give, offer those extraordinary gifts you have, the leadership, the wisdom the generosity and the courage.
- To grow in love and service, you — I, all of us — must value ignorance as much as knowledge and failure as much as success… As you integrate ignorance and failure into your knowledge and success, do the same with all the alien parts of yourself. Take everything that is bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself. Let your altruism meet your egotism, let your generosity meet your greed, let your joy meet your grief. Everyone has a shadow… But when you can say, “I am all of the above, my shadow as well as my light,” the shadow’s power is put in service of the good. Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.