Firstly, I have been letting them know how impressed I have already been by the way in which the Wallingford community functions. As I said to Year 7 on their first day last week, I will always say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon”, “Hello” or “How are you?” to each and every student I encounter and I expect this to be reciprocated. What is so impressive is that it is. Students leave school at 16 or 18 with exam grades and these are, of course, really important. They also leave us as products of our school community, as people who we hope are rounded and polite, caring and considerate. There are lots of elements which contribute to becoming this person but a warm, friendly greeting goes a long way to getting there.
The second thing I have talked to them about is a person - Muhammad Ali. I won’t repeat all of what I said about him but I did not focus too much on the boxer – although the iconic photo of him standing above a felled Sonny Liston was on the screen – but much more on the man. I said that he was a person who took a stand for what he believed in. I covered several examples of this but the one I ended on was how he dealt with suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The image I described was of him standing holding the Olympic torch aloft at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games as a once supreme athlete experienced the symptoms of a debilitating disease. On that day he took a stand in saying that this was who he was and that his illness may have changed him physically but he was still the same person and was not going to hide away or be ashamed of what was happening to him but rather make the most of each and every day and live his life as he wanted to.
There is so much for young people to admire in those who take a stand for what they believe in and also those who say that “this is me” and I will not hide away. Ali seems to me a pretty good example of someone who did both of those things in a remarkable life.