Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Eyes of Our Children


I spent much of the day supporting my son while he competed in the provincial Lion's speech competition in Gore. There were 16 senior school competitors repesenting secondary schools from both Otago and Southland. All presented themselves well in their school uniforms and introductions for each competitor included their interests and future aspirations. I was impressed by all the students' involvement in sport, cultural activities, community service and their intention to work in highly qualified and useful jobs or professions.

Each competitor had to present a six minute speech on a topic of their choice then later make a one minute impromptu speech on a given subject. We heard speeches on such things as prejudice, etiquette, history, technology, communication, transition to adulthood and giraffes, to name a few. Poise, humour, research, eloquence and some strong messages dominated the day and many comments were made amongst the audience regarding a positive future ahead based on this sample of our youth.

Each one of these highly talented and motivated young people were looking forward to their future and the possibilities ahead of them. It made me think about the world we are preparing for them to enter as young adults and the sort of decisions and choices they will have to make. I'm afraid at that point, I felt a little sick.

Not far from the theatre where the speeches were being made is the rich agricultural land that Solid Energy has purchased for conversion into opencast lignite mines. The Mataura River flows nearby, carrying a heavy load of sediment, nitrates and phosphates in the general direction of the threatened Waituna Lagoon. The heavy rain would have meant all those dairy farms with small holding ponds (previously consented) would be quietly irrigating the overflow out onto already saturated paddocks. The ditches flowing into the Mataura will be running green.

The government has decided to borrow to pay for the Christchurch rebuild and they have promised cuts in state services and strong changes to employment law to favour employers if they are re-elected. The minimum wage is being held under a livable level and youth rates have been threatened.

I can't find the original quote, but I remember Kennedy Graham once suggested something like - those making decisions for our future are deliberately avoiding the eyes of their children or grandchildren while doing so.

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