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Valedictory Speech: Ms. Tessa Fairbairn

Thank you for the privilege of addressing you on this auspicious evening when the King’s Academy community is gathered to honor your class, to reflect on your years here – in a unique school on the fields of Moab – and to wish you well as you travel into “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” – as you will recall, did Macbeth.

In the [Four] Quartets, [T.S.] Eliot encapsulates time as:

“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future

And time future contained in time past.”

You have been shaping your future here in a timeless land and an extraordinary school.

Each morning, each day, this most welcoming land is made brighter by your greetings your enthusiasm and your joy at seeing all our community. It is the cadences of sabah al kheir and sabah al noor that ring happily to greet the light of each new day. These greetings reflect the connections you have all made with each other, young and old, and from near and far – Jordanian connections.

It is the people who are the connections in this land of timeless loveliness. Amongst the ancient hills, within the wadis and the plains, people such as Moses have connected the past and the present, have shaped the future.

Behind Meissa lies the citadel of Husban, on the road to Giza, the citadel of Jalul.  History reports that Moses and his people took both from the kings of Moab. As these towns border our school, and as Nebo lies ahead to overlook Jerusalem and the West Bank, it stands to reason that Moses must have walked these very fields – so succulent and full of flowers in the spring. Abraham and Moses, Ibrahim and Musa, two of the world’s most significant peacemakers. On the other side of us, John the Baptist lost his head at Mukawir. His crime? Having the courage of his convictions and being critical of Herod Antipas.

Here, the remarkable vision of a school that will connect young leaders from the region and young leaders of the greater world is being set into the ancient hills of yesterday. Connecting the dots, the stories.

Tomorrow’s vision is that you meet one of your class or another King’s Academy alum in the boardrooms of tomorrow, in the courtrooms of the future and, inshaa Allah, together always make a sound just decisions for your projects, your constituents but most of all showing how closely, how intently, how meaningfully you are listening to one another. Yours is a world that will connect technologically. But it remains a world that must connect deeply, sincerely on a human level: person to person is simply far more valuable than send and delete.

(I shall get to Facebook with your help!)

Our school has offered you countless opportunities to excel, to participate, to learn.

There is one unsung opportunity that I see in action. It is that of Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu, more simply known as Ubuntu. Yes, African in origin! A philosophy of human connectedness that happens each day, each moment. Always being together, in the present.

We are who we are through others.

Whilst we are unique, we cannot stand alone. We celebrate our humanness by universal bond of sharing that connects humanity. The essence of being human is quietly, actively alive and well at King’s Academy.

It is the very generosity of the spirit, time and hospitality that we all experience in Jordan. It is the deep core of Arab society. Take this gift with you in “time future.” Celebrate your connectedness, listen deeply, clearly, sincerely.

The glorious mosaics of Madaba epitomize connectedness. The single most important mosaic of the Byzantine era connected pilgrims from all Europe to Jerusalem. It is in Madaba, from the late fourth century (Common era) pilgrims travelled to the map.

As you do tomorrow, they left a place of safety to explore and replenish their souls. Their story is your story. The mosaic of the school is now firmly earthed under venerable olive trees, and within the hearts of all who live and learn here. You are another band of tesserae, small bright jewels in the making of King’s Academy. It is your time to shine for others as men and women of hope, as peacemakers.

Take from the past, take from the present, shape the future. Eliot continues:

“Last year’s words belong in last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice” – yours!

This is your voice, a voice of compassion, of empathy. A firm voice of sound ethical thought, a voice that honors empirical evidence. Above all a voice that understands our human connectedness, in which the wisdom of humility is a requisite. Indeed for a healthy society, it is essential!

In 1966, I was a wee bit older than you are today. This inspired and fired me – I give it to you. Robert F. Kennedy, [University of Cape Town] UCT affirmation: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a ripple of hope . . . and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls. . .”

Kennedy’s words mirror this school’s remarkable vision. Be “ripples of hope.” Be the peacemakers of tomorrow.

I have known you well, each one of you, for all your King’s Academy years (and some since you were seven or eight years old!) I am utterly confident that you have grown into the very “ripples” that Kennedy foresaw.

Go safely.

Go well.

Join the alumnae of 2010 to 2015. Represent Jordan and your home country with pride, for you will, each of you, make a significant difference in the world of tomorrow.

And do remember that, as Shakespeare reminds us, “we are such stuff as dreams are made on.”

Thank you.

Last updated
May 2, 2017