n this era of throat-cutting competitiveness, the system encourages children to win or come first at any cost, by fair means if possible or otherwise by foul means. So we see many children loosing even their childhood and important playtime because they and their parents are pushed by the system into the exam oriented process with loads of books and tuition classes for several hours after school closes. As a negative result, students have got confused between the vice of self-centred competitiveness and the virtue of perseverance.
They need to take powerful lessons from people like the famous American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who in “Perseverance” said; When you have work to do, do it with a will, they who reach the top, first must climb the hill: though you stumble often, never be downcast; try and try again, you will win at last.
Our children also need to have as their motto what the famous American President Abraham Lincoln told his son through his class teacher, “It is more hounourable to fail, than to cheat.Similar prize winning and inspiring statements were made recently by Professor Nihal Amerasinghe, former Director General of the Asian Development Bank (Agriculture and social sectors and now a Professor at the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines.
Making the keynote speech at the prize day of his alma mater St Benedict College, Prof. Amerasinghe stressed the importance of perseverance and quoted the great Chinese philosopher Confucious who said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall.” Relating to the teenage children Prof. Amerasinghe told them of some pop stars.
He told the story of what happened in 1962 when four nervous young musicians had their first audition before the Decca Recording Company. The company was not impressed. While turning down the group of musicians, the company said, “We don’t like your sound. Groups of guitarists are on their way out.” Did the musicians give up? they did not. They became one of the greatest pop groups of all time—the Beatles.
He also told the boys how in 1954 Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry musical company, fired a singer after the first performance. They told him, “You ain’t going nowhere my son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.” Did he pack up his things and go home? he did not. He went on to become one of the world’s most popular singers--Elvis Presley.
Prof. Amerasinghe then moved on to sports which children like and where he himself had got colours in cricket and tennis. He spoke of the famous athlete Wilma Rudolph. She was the 20th of 22 children. She was born prematurely and her survival was doubtful.
When she was four years old, she suffered from double pneumonia and scarlet fever which left her with a paralyzed left leg. At the age of nine, she removed the metal support she had been using and began to walk without it. By 13, she had developed a rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle. That same year, she decided to be a runner. She entered a race and came last. For the next few years, every race she ran she came last. People told her to quit but she kept running.
One day she actually won a race. This was the turning point. Eventually, this little girl who was told she would not walk again, went on to win three Olympic gold medals. That is a real champion and every student could be one if there is perseverance and if he or she plays the game well.