Closing Ceremony Speech: RSIC2019
Posted: 16 October 2019
Rachael Westgarth, RS CEO
Rod Fraser, RS Chairman
What do we say? What can we possibly say to convey to our hosts how we all feel?
IF… you have enjoyed this week… if you are in awe of the generosity with which we have been treated… inspired by the words of the fantastic speakers that have been amassed for us… and enriched by the friendships you have made…
IF… you have seen and heard and experienced things that you feel have changed you for the better… you are going home rather heavier than you arrived, thanks to the wonderful food… and you know that you will do nothing but sleep on the plane….
IF… as a result of this conference – India will forever have a place in your heart… please join me in applauding and cheering for our hosts.
Mukshtek, Siddarth, Harshita, Uttera, Nisha, Sarweshwari, Rudra and Amit … not to mention all of the staff and students of the school who have welcomed us so warmly:
You told us at the start of the week that here in this part of the world that “Guest is God”. We know that this is important to you and is an important part of the culture here in India. As your guests, I hope that we have managed to convey to you what a fantastic week it has been, how grateful we are for your generous hospitality, and how very impressed and inspired we have been by the programme – and the arrangements – that you have laid on for us this week.
As the delegates know, we challenged you to make 12 Discoveries this week. I think we can safely say that the team here at Emerald Heights completed that challenge. From their courage at the outset in taking on the conference to the inventiveness of the Conference Committee in planning this astonishing programme. From the tenacity they have then shown as the rain attempted to thwart their plans… to the shining example of Teamwork set by their seamless organisation regardless of the obstacles that nature has thrown their way.
On behalf of us all – THANK YOU
At this point in the conference as we near the close, I am reminded of some words spoken by Kurt Hahn, on whose principles Round Square was founded. He observed that when you spend a period of time living everyday life in the company of those from other countries you “cannot help but learn to care about the rights and the happiness of at least one other nation.” I hope that this is true of your experiences this week, and I am sure that we will see it evidenced in the warmth of affection on display as you say your farewells.
Our theme this week has been “The World we Wish to See”. As we have watched you dance in the rain, contribute enthusiastically in the Baraza sessions, join each other onstage and raise the roof with your support for your fellow students at the multicultural evenings, launch into a variety of service experiences, eagerly explore the various places we have visited and ask such eloquent and insightful questions of our keynote speakers…. It gives us a glimpse of the world you might create… it gives us hope that the next generation will get us closer to that world we all wish to see.
And what is that world?
A world perhaps where it is no longer a privilege to be able to speak up for your beliefs and everyone’s voice is heard. A world where everyone has the freedom to make their own life-choices and not just those that are privileged enough to be in a position to take control. Perhaps a world where equality is a right for all and not just for those privileged enough to be able to demand it without fear of persecution. A world where we are all privileged enough to be in a position to act according to our conscience when it comes to environmental stewardship and sustainability.
For many peoples in the world there is a constant tension and frustration between their vision of the world they wish to see and their cultural, economic and religious freedom to do what needs to be done to bring about that world. We, here, have a choice to make. It is a choice that Madame Gandhi addressed so eloquently earlier this week: We either can be ashamed of our privilege, and quietly apologise for it in the face of that inequality… OR… we can put it to good use in seeking to effect positive change. This is a message that is close to our hearts at Round Square and we hope one that you will take away with you.
And whilst you take something away, at the same time we ask that you leave something behind.
Yesterday we visited a hospital on the service programme, and today the same hospital was the finish line for our Cancer Run. This hospital is close to the hearts of our friends here at Emerald Heights who support its progress and development, and so of course that puts it close to our hearts as well. As you leave today or this evening, you will see collection boxes at the front of the hall and on the exits. If you have loose change – coins or small notes – left over at the end of your visit here, please make a donation to the hospital by dropping your coins in one of the bowls.
And so we will end as we began.
In the opening ceremony I shared with you two quotes from John Ruskin to carry with you this week. One was about the weather and you can imagine my delight when I caught sight of a number of you dancing in the rain the other day… embracing Ruskin’s “lots of types of good weather” – you raised everyone’s spirits – thank you – and you illustrated the point made by our excellent speakers earlier today – In the end it’s all about your ATTITUDE.
The second quote from Ruskin that I shared with you told us that “what we think, or what we know, or what we believe, is – in the end – of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”
So let’s take our privilege and put it to good use. Let’s give thanks for our great fortune in being able to come together in this way for this incredible week by going home with purpose and a determination to make a difference through our actions. It’s time to make a start on the World we Wish to See.