TUESDAY, 21 JUNE 2023
- The Director of Ceremonies.
- The Chairperson of the Board – Prof Anne Mager;
- Members of the Board;
- The Executive Director – Ms Busi Maqubela.
- Valued donours and friends of ASSET.
- The Principals of schools and Tutors.
- The ASSET Staff, Alumni and Beneficiaries.
- Distinguished Guests.
- Ladies and Gentlemen
- VOTE OF THANKS
Allow me to express my sincerest appreciation to the Chairperson, the Board and Executive Director of ASSET, for the invitation extended to address you at this the 20th AGM of the organisation.
As you have learnt, I have decided to step down as a member of the board. I believe it is time for me to scale down on some of my involvements and activities, but also to provide the opportunity for a younger person to take up the batten.
Against the background of the afore-mentioned, I want to thank the Chairperson, Members of the Board, the Executive Director and Staff of ASSET, for affording me the opportunity to be of service to you.
Thank you for the interactions we were able to have. The knowledge and experiences exchanged have certainly enriched my life.
It have always been inspired in the way that ASSET is fulfilling an important function, in providing much needed services to our schools and communities.
May ASSET continue to grow from strength to strength, in making a difference in the lives of our people.
May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.
- STANDING ON THE MOUNTAIN
The Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen, I grew up on a farm, halfway between Colesberg and Noupoort, in the Karoo. About 500m from our house was a mountain. Not a very high mountain, but certainly not a hill.
As a child I always found the mountain inviting, and it wasn’t long before we secretly climbed the mountain.
Mountains have always been an integral part of creation. We all have had our own experiences and / or fantasies about mountains.
Having flown regularly from JHB to CPT, it has always been interesting to witness the reactions of some of the passengers in the plane, looking at Table Mountain when the plane decants for the landing. More than once I saw how people become emotional at the sight of the mountain – it could possibly have beeen someone who has been away for a long time and knows that they are back at home.
Today I would like to talk to you about the mountain. The mountains in our lives. The challenges that one faces, but more specifically, the joy of standing on the mountain. What it takes to get to the top, but also the implications of it. What are the lessons of life that are experienced in climbing the mountain.
I would like to refer to the symbolism of the mountains in our lives. The experiences, and the lessons we can take from it:
- Life is like a Mountain that we must climb. There is a quest, an inherent desire, an urgency, to reach the top of the mountain – the highest spot on the ladder of life.
- We set ourselves goals in life and each stepping stone along the way, represents the fulfillment of that goal.
- In the beginning the climb, such as life, may be long and difficult, but each climb, the reaching of each resting point, gets us closer to the top – closer to our goal.
- After much blood, sweat and sometimes tears, we would reach the summit and enjoy the satisfaction of our achievement and one can say: “I have done it”.
VALUABLE LESSONS – Along the climb, and on route, we will learn some valuable lessons about life:
- We have choices – we could stay in the valley, like everybody else. Or we could make the conscious decision that it is too crowded at the bottom – there is not enough space for everyone.
- Hope is born in the valleys, not on the tops of the mountains. It is in the valley where you can look at the majesty of the mountain – where you’re looking at the heights and peaks that you’re yet to climb”.
- The man on the top of the mountain didn’t fall there. People are not born successful. In most instances one must work your way to the top.
- Our elders will tell us: “When there is a hill to be climbed, don’t think that waiting will make it smaller – don’t look for a way around it. You must go to the mountain. One goal at a time. One step at a time”.
- The escalator to success in life is out of order. We are compelled to use the stairs – one step at a time. There is no cable car that would get us to the top of the mountain. We must climb it – one step at a time.
LESSONS OF LIFE – In our quest to get to the top, we unconsciously learn several valuable lessons of life:
- We learn to travel light. Everything that you take along, you will have to carry. “Mountain climbers do not carry bricks”. “We are not supposed to carry the mountain, we are only supposed to climb it” – so learn to travel light.
Shouldn’t we do that in life as well. Sometimes we carry a lot of baggage along with us. Things that happened a long time ago, that tire us and drain our souls.
We are reminded of what Mohammad Ali once said: “It is not the mountains ahead to climb that wears you down, it is the pebble in the shoe.”
- Climbing a mountain is not always a solo journey. Most of the time in a group or team and your trek is in the formation of a V … the way the geese fly when they migrate.
Leadership is shared, encouragement and support along the way and you get to destination or end goal, or job done quicker. Stay beside each other regardless of differences.
How often is it that we don’t want to be part of the team. We want to rely on our own limited capabilities and strengths, just to discover that there is strength in unity.
- There will be obstacles along the way. There will be challenges. Some may even contemplate turning back to the comfort and the security of the valley.
- Soon we learn to stay focused – when everything feels like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top. “The best view comes after the hardest climb.”
The sweetest success comes after the hardest battle.
- Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to summit Mount Everest, once said; “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”.
- So, soon we realise what Barry Finlay meant, when he said: “Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”
- Mountaineers will tell us that the best time to scale the summit of a mountain is early morning. So, late afternoon plans are made to scale the summit. The realization that the summit is within reach demands careful planning and strategizing. Very often, you can only strike once, there may not be a second chance – watch the weather.
- Sometime, halfway through the night the onslaught on the summit is launched. Everything is executed with surgical precision.
- We have scaled the summit – we have reached our goal – the excitement is overwhelming and so is the pain and suffering. Tears of joy and tears of pain have joined hands to celebrate the achievement.
- On the top of the mountain everything seems to make sense. Everything is quiet. Everything is peaceful. It is just you, your thoughts, and Mother Nature.
- Soon one realises that, whilst it is wonderful to stand on the mountain, it has its own advantages and a range of challenges.
- It is a privilege to stand on the mountain. It is not everyone that is privileged to do so. Many have tried, but only a few has succeeded. We look down onto the valley and we realise it is shear grace that has brought us there. We look at the beauty of the surroundings and we realise how privileged we are – many have tried to scale the mountain and we are part of the selected few.
- But we should not take the mountain for granted – it has been there before us, and it will be there, long after we are gone….
- Soon we realise that we didn’t get there on our own. John C Maxwell writes about the Management of Teams, and he refers to the “The Law of Everest” – When you stand on Everest, remember the people on the slopes that brought you where you are.
So, when you walk across the stage, please remember Auntie Sophie, at the end of the street, who used to stop you and enquired about your studies. Remember the uncle at the shop who regularly enquired about your wellbeing. Your grandmother who took such a keen interest in you – they, together with your parents, are the people that brought you where you are today.
- To stand on the mountain gives you the right to say to the world: “I have done it. I have scaled the mountain”. You have an undisputable right to claim your own space. To claim your success. To claim your victory.
Everyone knows it and everyone acknowledges that we are entitled to the right. We are the undisputed owner of the right to say “I have done it. I have been to the mountain. I have scaled the summit. I am on top of the world. I have done it”.
Yes, very often we could be the first one in our family to earn the stripes. We could be the first one of what is commonly referred to as the “ first generation of post school graduates” in our community.
Be mindful however, that you are not the first one to do it. Many have done it before, and many will do it after you. Your parents have done it. They might not have climbed the same mountain that we have climbed – me and you have earned a post school qualification or a degree. No, they might not have attended a school, nor a tertiary institution. They attended the “School of Hard Nocks” and graduated from the College of Knowledge” They have been to the mountain and have earned their stripes – they majored in multiple subjects, amongst others called “Commonsense and Wisdom”.
- With every right comes a responsibility. The privileges that have been bestowed upon us bring along a set of responsibilities. If we are willing to claim the rights, we must accept the responsibilities that come with it.
- We climbed the mountain. We have scaled the summit and in the process of doing so we have learnt some valuable lessons.
The question that we have to ask ourselves is: “What are the lessons that we have learnt on the mountain. What is it that we are bringing back with us”. Moses brought the Ten Commandments with him and shared it with the people. What is it that we have to share with the people?
- One of the most important lessons that one learns in standing on the mountain, is that you didn’t get there on your own and in your own power. The mountain teaches us to be humble.
If one hasn’t learnt the attribute of humbleness, then the mountain that you climbed wasn’t high enough.
- Years ago I invited Sibusiso Vilane, the first Black South African that scaled the summit of Mount Everest on the 26th May 2003, to be the guest speaker at one of our certificate ceremonies. What a humble man. After our meeting he scaled the summit of Everest for a second time – this time it was from the Tibet side.
Last month, on the 26 May 2023, he was back at base camp, celebrating 20 years since the first event. What was remarkable, once again to me, was his humbleness. This time recognizing and honouring the late John Doble, the man that discovered and supported him. Once again showing true character.
After meeting Sibusiso I realized that you must be humble if you want to reach such heights, for the mountain could bring you down onto your knees. This season alone, 12 climbers have already died on Everest and 5 are missing.
- We however can’t stay on the mountain. Whilst the scenery is beautiful and the views are fantastic, there is no growth there. The soil on the mountain is not fertile. The best soil is found in the valley. Very often there are more rocks at the summit.
- “Everybody wants to reach the peak, but there is no growth on the top of a mountain. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak.” – Andy Andrews
- Mountaineers that scale the summit of Mount Everest, on average stay between 5 – 15 minutes on the mountain.
To have scaled the mountain is just half of the mission, for the decent is equally dangerous. Many have made it to the top, but some didn’t make it back. They didn’t live to tell their story.
- Embrace the beauty and leave only your footprints on the mountain. Do not take anything from the mountain or remove anything to take down to the valley. It’s not yours to take and it might not fit and prosper in the valley. The mountain is a gift that keeps on giving.
- “Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”
- As leaders in the educational fraternity there is not much to be done on the mountain – the real work is in the valley. That is where we should be.
- Whilst, at a personal and institutional level we could be excited about our achievements and accomplishments – whilst we are delighted about our surroundings and the beauty thereof, we must remind ourselves that with every right comes a responsibility, and with every responsibility comes an obligation.
- Mountain tops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them – Nicky Gumbel. Our maturity will be derived from our tasks and labouring in the valley.
- So today we are gathered here to listen to the achievements and accomplishments of ASETT. Rightfully, saying to ourselves and to others “We have made it. We have done it. We have scaled the summit”.
Let us remind ourselves that:
- It is good to be at the top, the view is fantastic – there is always room for more – it is not as crowded as it is in the valley.
- The air is clear; the scenery is breathtaking, and we can even see the people in the valley.
- We have however been warned that we cannot stay on the mountain. We must come down to the valley – it is a startling realization.
We soon realise that.
- We have climbed the mountain, not so that the people in the valley can see us, but so that we can see the people in the valley.
- This is the challenge for each one of us present here today. As we are celebrating the achievements of the year, we are standing on the mountain, it is not for our beneficiaries and sponsors to see the wonderful work that we are doing, but it is for us to see what the needs are in our schools and in our communities.
- Our primary responsibility and obligation are to encourage and motivate our institutions, our learners, and our recipients of bursaries. We must motivate them to climb the mountain. We must prepare them for their journey up the mountain.
And once we have done it, we will celebrate the achievements, like we do today, and tomorrow, we will start with our jobs to support the next group.
. Let us be reminded, that:
- “When you are above, you know what is below, but when you are below you don’t know what is above.
- One climb, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen”.
- “The man at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there”.
- “Mountains don’t go away. They wait – they wait for you and me to take them on. The excitement starts – the battle begins – Aluta Continua – the struggle continues.
- “To wish a life without stairs, without hills and mountains is to wish a dim life without the joy of rising with our own efforts!”
― Mehmet Murat Ildan
- “We climb mountains not so that the world can see us, but so that we can see the world”.
- So in closing, we are reminded what our former president and Father of the Nation, Nelson Mandela, once said, and I have adapted it for the theme:
“I have walked that long road to freedom.
I have tried not to falter.
I have made missteps along the way.
But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great mountain, one only finds that there are many more mountains to climb.
I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come.
But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
To the Chairperson, the Board, the Executive Director, and Staff, and to everyone that have joined us today, I would like to say:
May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.
I thank you.
by JANNIE ISAACS