Who makes a difference?


  It makes no difference who you are or what you look like, or used to look like – one of the facts of life is ageing and eventual death.  However, have you ever thought about what things about a person really makes a difference to you? Their physical appearance tells one story, but their actions tell us more. Mother Theresa physically was frail but it was not her fragility that we remember her by, but her actions.  There are many stories to tell about who has made a difference in people’s lives.  Recently at a Rotary Seminar I attended we heard a Chief Executive Officer of a famous football club tell of the impact his father had made on the life of a poor farmer in Russia. The story goes something like this: Ian’s father had read about how a particular farmer in Russia had scrounged around for a spare type for his tractor so that he could continue working on his land. Ian’s father said to his son “I’m going to buy that farmer a new tractor”. Through many emails, much lobbying, many hours of toil, and with the help of fundraising through Rotary, he achieved this goal. Ian’s father eventually travelled to Russia and met the farmer. It was Ian’s father that made a difference in the life of the Russian farmer!

Who makes a difference (or has made a difference) in your life? Do (have) you make a difference to anyone else’s life ?   As educators we aim to touch the lives of all of our students, particularly through our passion for teaching and our specialty area in the curriculum, but also through our genuine displays of care and concern for the young people in our charge.

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip. The original post can be found at http://www.funnycoolstuff.com/2011/06/25/peanuts-philosophy/.  (I have “Australianized some  the questions so substitute appropriate local names if reading from any other country, or just go to the link for the original).

You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just ponder on them – read straight through, and you’ll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in Australia. 2. Name the last five Melbourne Cup winning jockeys. 3. Name the last five winners of the Miss Australia pageant. 4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. 5. Name the last half dozen Gold Logie Winners. 6. Name the Australian Gold medal winners from the last 3 Olympic Games.

So how did you do?

The point is: none of us remember many of the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. With many, achievements are forgotten. Awards tarnish. Accolades & certificates are buried with their owners.

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school. 2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. 3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile. 4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special. 5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier? – The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not ones with the most credentials, the most money…or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care the most. 

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia” [Charles M Schultz]

”Be Yourself. Everyone Else Is Taken!” [Oscar Wilde]

Primary students with passion


I am currently the proud President of the Rotary Club of Mont Albert & Surrey Hills (affectionately known as MASH) – a mixed gender, non-traditional, active, welcoming club of 36 members.

We are only 7 years ‘old’ and since being chartered have conducted an annual Public Speaking competition for local primary (elementary) schools – principally for grade 6 students.

The idea came from two of our charter members who visited a club in New Zealand and saw this type of event being held. Our club adapted the model and has been running it ever since. So successful is the idea that in 2010 our District (District 9810 – 49 clubs) recommended it as an initiative for other clubs to follow. Several clubs have.

All of that is by way of background. Our finals were conducted on August 30 this year and I acted as MC. As an educator, what impresses me on each occasion this event is held is the passionate presentations by the students, and no more so than this year. By way of introduction to the night I advised the 10 finalists (from 5 schools) by quoting Doctor Zeus:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”

Below are my comments or quotes on each speaker’s presentation and a brief summary by my fellow MC from Toastmasters while the judges were deliberating:

What ‘others’ lack..? “What I would do is put a sparkle in their eyes, smiles on parent faces and harmony in the world” (Chryssa) – finalist

Judges comment: “a very thoughtful speech”

 Happiness is “immersion in an activity or goal…a feeling of accomplishment when you do a good deed” (Charlie) – finalist

Judges comment: “profound thoughts and good humor”

“I love my mum, even though she embarrasses, …she would do anything for me…” (Holly) – 2nd place winner

Judges comment: “Good use of humor and a very expressive speech”

 “I was born in Chile and arrived in Australia when I was 3. Australia is a great place to live because people are polite and friendly, it is multi-cultural….” (Luna) – finalist

Judges comment: “Confident presentation and well put together”

“Happiness is a smiley face – an emoticon – so simple but so complex; as simple as things like enjoying favorite foods; complex because happiness often comes with other emotions…elation..achievement…joy..pleasure..concentration..anticipation..excitement..” (Daniel) – 3rd place winner

Judges comment: “Well crafted and strong delivery of speech”

“If I had superpowers I would take away three negatives – racism, cancer, poverty” (Lachlan) – finalist

Judges comment: “Good detail and knew the topic well”

 ”…. but it was about having a conversation…that will always be special” (Nicholas) – 1st place winner

Judges comment: “Great energy and humor; very expressive and energetic presentation”

 “My happiest experience…. a roller coaster ride at Disneyland.. excited, nervous, scared, numb.” “ups, downs and loops……again! again!” (Emily) – finalist

Judges comment: “Great vocal variety”

 “1.4 billion people in the world live below the poverty line -1 billion of them children” If I could change the world…. I would get cured…the hungry, the homeless, poverty” (Harry) – finalist

Judges comment: “Strong speech with a call to action”

 “Happiness… people search for happiness without even realizing it… happy minds lead to healthy bodies…… you choose happiness” (Zara) – finalist

Judges comment: “Expressive voice and well researched”

What words can I add to the extracts above from the students themselves to explain further the sheer talent, confidence, competence… and passion, of the 10 finalists of the MASH 7th Primary Public Speaking Competition ?

The prevailing themes of the speakers tended to revolve around ‘happiness’ or the cure for ‘unhappiness”.

I’d like to share some of the words I scribbled onto my MC notes by way of summary about each speaker – passionate, emotive, confident, profound thoughts, confident, passionate, clear, confident, informed and real, great, great content, clear diction, confident, powerful, expressive gestures, passionate, great punch-line, passionate, confident, great research, great content, passionate.

 Simple summary really: passionate, confident, and great. These students were not even born when the film “Flashdance” adorned the cinemas [1983] and the theme song – “What a feeling” was a number 1 hit on the charts. But they embraced what the film was all about and what one line of the lyrics so aptly describes “Take your passion and make it happen”

Photo: (front from L to R) 3rd place Daniel, 1st place Nicholas; 2nd place Holly. Rear: Tony, MC and President of RC of MASH

 The final word

 If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it might be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you” (T. Alan Armstrong, Author.)