The second half of the term started with an outstanding talk in Assembly from the Head Boy, Max Trusler.

“This morning I’m going to be speaking about resilience and determination. This is the ability to respond positively from tough times, learn from them and bounce back even stronger. These are important characteristics for us all and a critical ingredient to enjoying a full and successful life. I personally feel driven to talk about resilience and determination because they are applicable to any career or aspect of life. These characteristics are as important to academia, politics, business, sport or even just part of our day-to-day living. Without the ability to pick yourself up when things don’t go according to plan and fight on, makes it much more difficult to enjoy all that life has to offer.  

One of my favourite stories of resilience is in the sporting world and involves the former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Ronda Rousey. Ronda was already an Olympic Bronze medallist in Judo and at the top of her profession but wanted to make the move into Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Her Judo skills meant that she was extremely efficient at submission moves, but was near clueless when it came to striking her opponent. Ronda was in desperate need of a striking coach before her first MMA amateur match. Ronda searched across the country for the right coach and finally found what she considered to be the perfect guy for the job, a man called Edmond Tarverdyan. However, there was a major problem with Edmond, he didn’t train women! This however, was not going to put Ronda off and viewed this just as an obstacle that needed to be overcome. So every day at 8:30 in the morning she would be the first to arrive at his gym to start training. As soon as Edmond arrived she would ask him to coach her, and every day the answer was the same, NO! Ronda however was not giving up that easily. For weeks on end, Ronda persisted with this same daily routine.  In her autobiography Ronda explained how she would stand outside the ring where Edmond would coach and listen into his lessons, trying to get tips on how to improve, copying each and every movement he made. Finally, her persistence paid off and Edmond was won over by the drive and sheer determination that Ronda had shown despite all his negativity. Ronda’s resilience and tenacity altered Edmond’s perception of women fighters, finally agreeing to train her. He became the lead in Ronda’s corner as she went on to win 12 consecutive fights in the UFC and became the world champion and one of the most dominant women in the sport.  

The other person I would like to discuss will be far better known to all of you. This individual showed resilience and determination in a completely different manner, and went on to completely change the immoral, discriminatory laws that controlled a nation. That person is Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary, who fought against the system of racial segregation and discrimination that cost him 27 years of his life behind bars. During these 27 years Mandela was subjected to both physical and verbal harassment, he had to sleep in a cell measuring 8 feet by 7 feet and was forced to perform manual labour under horrendous conditions. However, prison never put a stop to Mandela’s determination to stop injustice. He was the first prisoner to speak out about the conditions and ill treatment of the prisoners, and because of this he had to face the punishment of solitary confinement. Mandela found solitary confinement the worst of all the punishments when locked away, but even knowing what his actions would bring, he still fought for what he believed. When finally being released from prison, it would’ve been easy for Mandela to have been bitter or given up, but this was not the person he was. He was driven to Cape Town’s City Hall where he gave a speech to a large crowd of people declaring his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the white minority, but he also stated that the fight against the apartheid was not over and promised he would negotiate with the government to end the people's struggle. It is amazing that having just served a long sentence for standing up against the South African Government, the first thing that Mandela did when he was released was to continue his drive for justice. Although he had been imprisoned, his end goal had never changed. In his mind if he hadn’t continued fighting, the 27 years he had just served would have all been for nothing. As we now know he went on to not only change his Country but to positively influence the World!   

Resilience and determination formed an important part of both these tremendously driven people. Neither, would have been as successful without the ability to pick themselves up, re-evaluate and move forward.

Ronda Rousey was told because she was a women, she could not train with the coach of her choice and Nelson Mandela was told he had no rights because of the colour of his skin, leading him to being imprisoned for 27 years. Both of these individuals accomplished enormous feats in completely different ways and have become an inspiration to many people around the world.  They set an example to all, that if you’re determined and driven towards an end goal, anything can be achieved. Obstacles, knocks and setbacks are part of everyday life.  The skill is to acknowledge they are just that, they are just obstacles!

If you want something badly enough or there is a goal you wish to achieve then find the determination and resilience to persevere and accomplish your dreams.”