Friday, November 4, was a special day, at a special place: Founders’ Day, at Somerset House Preparatory School.
There was much to celebrate.
But more important than the campus and the trees, the classrooms and the computers, were the school’s values.
Herewith, the words from a speech:
Somerset House is a year older – as are you, its pupils.
And as you get older, you’ll be starting to understand more about yourself. Your strengths, your weaknesses. Whether you love or hate art or maths.
You’ll start to wonder what you want to be one day – an astronaut, or a dentist, or the inventor of new businesses the world has never seen.
But that’ll be the easy part – working out what you want to be.
Far more important is working out who you want to be – for the rest of your life.”
Let me tell you how this place shaped me:
In the year I was in Grade 1, shortly after I arrived here, I was going through a tough time. My Dad was going to live on the other side of the world. I was pretty bleak.
But I opened my eyes, to the world around me. I saw the sunshine, the oak trees. I looked around, and I saw paradise.
We spent our first years here building huts in the forest, having acorn fights that sometimes lasted days. And we spent our time singing! Some really cool stuff. We rocked this place.
So at Somerset House I learned to be grateful. I learned I can be happy – even if there’s sadness around me.
I learned to never, never, never, never give up. How? We decided to do the Argus Tour, when we were just 10 years old.
Our teachers believed in us. They told us to go for it. So we did. We learned self-belief.
I learned about teamwork.
One day we had a soccer match. We were losing terribly, 7-0, with only 10 minutes to go. And in our team was Zuko Mputa. He was a Zulu guy, and wasn’t used to wearing boots.
He kept begging our coach to be allowed to take off his boots. But the coach said he’d get hurt – all the other players were wearing boots.
With only eight minutes to go, the coach finally allowed him to take off his boots.
And off ran Zuko Mputa. He ran like the wind – finally he was free. And he scored eight goals in eight minutes.
We became an incredible team. Using the strength of every single player.
And I learned about honesty:
One day I was walking home after school, and I saw a tractor tyre lying on the top field, before the nursery school.
As you know, there’s a steep hill there.
So I wondered how cool it would be to roll the tyre down the hill. And so I did. It took off like a Ferrari! It was awesome.
But unfortunately it didn’t stop. It rolled right down to the bottom of the parking lot, and it hit a wall.
And the wall fell over. The whole wall. Into a swimming pool.
At first, I was really scared, about telling the truth. No one had seen me – it was my horrible secret. But eventually I found the courage.
I told the headmaster. And I was punished – whacked on the bum with a hairbrush (it was 1980).
But you know what? It was such a relief! I had owned up. And I had set myself free
All these values – integrity, respect, determination, unselfishness, team spirit, united in Somerset House’s motto: “Non Nobis Solum” – “Not for ourselves alone”.
These, I learned right here. In this same place as you.
So: this is the opportunity every single one of you has. An extraordinary opportunity – to choose WHO you want to be