Assembly Speech: Generational Observations

generation-z-logo-indexThere is the generation X, the generation Y, the baby boomers. And then, there is us. I sometimes wonder whether we are not the attention deficit disorder generation. Someone or something takes our fancy, and for the space of a few months, days, or hours, we enthusiastically embrace an idea, elevate a person to ridiculous heights, and covet the most ridiculous object as if it was made of gold. From nothing, it becomes everything, is everywhere – in multiple copycat versions too – and, just as suddenly, we drop it, never to think of it again. We flit to the next idea, the next trend. It can be charming…except when it comes to charities. Because yes, it appears that for us, charities too are just fleeting fads.

When I was 8 or 9, I wore a yellow rubber bracelet, which bore the catchy slogan “Livestrong”. I loved my bracelet for one reason. My friends thought I was oh so cool. The bracelets were extremely scarce, having sold out of several NIKE stores. They were also very popular, not surprisingly since popularity and scarcity go together. The unexpected shortage of bracelets had naturally spiked interest in the rubber band to such an extend that – and this is the absolute truth – strangers would stop me in the street, offering me up to $20 for my bracelet. I am ashamed to say, that I had no idea that “Livestrong” was meant to serve the cause of cancer; I suspect that I was not alone and that for a great majority of people, the bracelets were simply the expression of a desire to be part of a trend. Quickly enough, yellow bracelets became lost in a sea of other rubber bracelets: green, blue, pink, red, RAINBOW! Rubber bands were everywhere, in sports stores and at the dollar stores. My yellow bracelet was given to my dog as a chew toy.  Livestrong, the slogan and the foundation became passé. True, Livestrong’s spokesperson and founder had spectacularly fallen from grace, but the Livestrong bracelet had faded from our minds long before that.

I can give you dozens of examples. For a few months, we kept cool by throwing ice buckets on our heads. Every time we did it, we raised awareness for ALS. We also raised money. Not as much as we could have, since ice buckets were meant as an alternative to donating money, but still we did raise some money and a lot of awareness for the cause. Until one day, we just forgot to. Bet you a whole bucket of ice that very few of us still think occasionally – if ever – of ALS. So much for awareness.

Joseph Kony, by all accounts an evil man who ordered the abduction of 66,000 children to become sex slaves and soldiers became the cause célèbre in 2012. A video was shown on social media, it went viral within minutes, and suddenly every teenager in America and Canada was heard talking about Joseph Kony. For a minute or two, just a little longer than it takes for us to repost a video, everyone wanted to be part of the anti-Joseph Kony movement. A mere month later, another video called young people everywhere to “cover the night” and put up posters of Kony because, yes, the 66,000 abducted children still deserved to be remembered. And no, no one showed up to cover the night. No one. 66,000 abducted children did not deserve that.

Which brings me to the real point of my presentation. We are in a privileged position, all of us, and we are all conscious of it. We want to help. I want us to remember this: we are an enthusiastic generation, and for whatever time we spend on a trend, we give it our all. We do a lot of good. But we are also fickle, easily bored, easily distracted, and eager to jump to the next cause – one that’s compatible with Facebook and Instagram! Causes and charities cannot be the helpless victims of a generation’s attention deficit. Before we espouse a cause or adopt a charity as our own, we need to find what meaning the cause or charity holds for us. If we do that, we can be assured that our charities won’t be mere fads. Everyone in the 21st century hopes for their fifteen minutes of fame. Cancer research, ALS or children sold as slaves ought to be able to hope for a lot longer than 15 minutes. – David Elbaz ’15

Grateful to be a Round Square Student

I am often asked, with just a hint of suspicion, “What is Round Square?” Quite simply, it is the sum of six ideals, internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership and service, which, added one to another, equal a philosophy of learning. Those six goals, each important in and by themselves, are bound together to form an integral whole that we call Round Square.

It is a great source of pride to me that these six ideals are so intricately woven in the LCC fabric, so much a part of the LCC student’s daily vocabulary that the six ideals are not so much applied as lived. Community service, the daily exposure to environmental or international issues, or participation in leadership activities are the common lot of all LCC students – much like homework, part and parcel of student life.

This no doubt explains why I am so often asked, “What is Round Square?” Round Square activities are not notable for the LCC student, exposed right from the start to the Round Square philosophy of learning. Round Square activities are quite simply and naturally part of life.

The most spectacular of Round Square activities are perhaps the international exchanges which give LCC students the chance to live for a couple of extraordinary months, the ordinary life of the Peruvian, South African, Australian, Indian or French student. These exchanges often begin with a burst of, until then unsuspected, patriotic pride. There are friendly patriotic tug of wars, where differences are highlighted. By the end of these exchanges, differences between cultures are dismissed as trivial, and there is the profound realization that for all the geographic differences, which, to all appearances, cause abysses between cultures and nations, we are all one humanity. This is a Round Square lesson.

Twice a year, there are Round Square or CAIS conferences for Middle School and Senior School students. LCC students travel, sometimes to far and exotic places, other times to more familiar destinations, to exchange, with other Round Square students, ideas about international or environmental issues. Open dialogue and finding ways of integrating leadership into everyday life is another Round Square lesson.

And then, there are all the other activities, no less important and very much a huge part of Round Square life. These include, but are not limited to, all the community service activities and the environment-oriented activities. The environment committee’s tireless efforts to educate on environmental issues proved effective: all six LCC students sent to Jordan had the urge to turn off the water sprinklers irrigating, all day and all night, the beautiful school campus. That we are all locally responsible for the global good of the earth is a third Round Square lesson.

The Coat Drive to benefit the Share The Warmth organization is a great example of the way LCC students live Round Square ideals. The drive, undertaken enthusiastically, if quietly, was a great success.

A Round Square student is a Round Square person for life. I am a Round Square student, and I, for one, couldn’t be more grateful. – David Elbaz ’15, Round Square Head


Round Square International Conference Jordan 2014: Student Reflections

2014_15_RS_Inter_Conf_Jordan_005It sometimes happens, though not at all frequently, that a setting is so extraordinary, foreign and exotic that it will steal the show and threaten to make one forget primary themes. Jordan is such a setting. It is a country so exciting that we could be forgiven for forgetting, for a little while, that the point is not really the country but the Conference itself and that a setting is merely background to highlight the main message. The Conference, then, is the highlight. Internationalism was a somewhat abstract concept for me; being a delegate at the Round Square conference in Jordan at the beginning of October became a lesson in applied internationalism. I learned that internationalism is so much more than just traveling thousands of miles to a foreign country. It is more than the pleasure of mingling with students of different nationalities. Internationalism is more than getting Facebook requests from students in South Korea, Dubai or Jordan. Internationalism means to discover that peace, universally desired, holds different meaning for different people and that there exists widely differing visions on how to achieve peace. It means arguing with students from 80 Round Square schools, but ultimately finding common ground in our belief in an education based on such pillars as democracy and leadership. It means getting a renewed hope in dialogues between countries, and an understanding that we are indeed part of a global village.David Elbaz ’15

Travelling to Jordan for the Round Square Conference was an extremely eye opening experience. While it was incredible to see people ride donkeys and camels on the side of a busy highway, or walk through Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World the true eye opener was that for once us “North-Americans” felt like a small minority. On the first night of our conference, we heard a speech about the Palestine-Israel conflict that was very clearly pro-Palestine. Because of my background the speech made me feel slightly uncomfortable, and I quickly realized that there are so many different ways to view an issue and attaining peace isn’t as easy as I’d thought. From then on, we discussed many other prominent issues in the Middle East, such as Syrian Refugees, ISIS and the Israel vs. Hamas conflict.Jessie Lackstein ’15

Al salamu alaikum, Peace be With You was the theme for this Conference. Guest Speaker Shabana Basij-Rasikh and her mission truly encompassed this theme.  She was a notable guest speaker that had an amazing impact on us. At the age of six, the Taliban invaded her town restricting her from receiving any schooling. The consequences in Afghanistan for a woman to attend school or walk alone outside without male escort is death. Luckily in 2002, Shabana was given the opportunity to attend a proper high school in the USA. She then went on the Middlebury College as a student and went on to co-found the only boarding school for girls in Afghanistan. Shabana felt the responsibility to found a girl school in her own country as a way to give back after being given so much opportunity in her own life. She did not want to say that she was empowering the girls who attend her school as she see’s that word as condescending but simply educate them in hopes of a more prosperous future for the next female generation in Afghanistan. Today, SOLA, is free for the 42 Afghani girls who attend her school.Nora Althani ’15

One story from this conference I’d like to share is that of one of the bravest men I’ve ever met, Sariah Samake, an 18 year old grade 10 student. While most of you may associate being older than your grade with failure, Sariah’s story is a little more complex. Living in Syria, he was kidnapped three times in three years: by Syrian rebels, the Syrian government, and ISIS. Each respective time, he had to endure unbearable psychological torture, yet he never compromised the truth, even under gunpoint, with death staring him in the face. To me, that’s what makes these trips worthwhile: the incredible people you meet. Whether it’s someone like Sariah who can tell life-changing stories firsthand, or simply someone who you talk to once, each individual offers a unique perspective of the world and society we live in, challenging our dogmatism and offering exposure to the amazing world around us.Spencer Albert ’15

A ce point ci, mes camarades ont dit tout qui est profond. Cette conférence était la même chose pour moi, mais je veux parler de quelque chose différente ; Petra. Un poste de commerce d’antiquité, Petra était ciselé dans la pierre par les Nabateans Anciens. Notre randonnée nous à pris jusqu’au sommet d’une montagne déserte, et sur la piste nous avons vues des constructions qui ont donnés un nouveau sens au mot « Épique ». Après un vue spectaculaire en haut du montagne, nous avons retournés  à l’Autobus par âne et chameau. Petra est une destination absolument fantastique et il faut y aller pour vraiment savourer Jordanie.Maxim Makarov ’15

De la part de Jessie, Nora, Max, David, Spencer et moi, nous voudrions remercier Mme Shadley,  M. Shannon et Mme Garber, qui nous a accompagnés pendant ce voyage extraordinaire et inoubliable. Sans eux, nous n’aurions jamais eu cette chance d’explorer la beauté inspirante du Moyen-Orient  et d’apprendre la diversité des cultures et les défis qui viennent avec. De plus,  nous avons beaucoup apprécié l’accueil chaleureux de tous les élèves de King’s Academy et un grand merci à tous les autres élèves autour du monde, qui ont participé à cette conférence mémorable. Al Salamu Alaikum. Peace be with you. Merci. – Sabrina Chan ’15


Round Square: Nature’s Spa at the Dead Sea

With the beginning of the conference being absolutely packed with all kinds of speakers, bazaars, and other interesting Round Square activities, I can speak for all of us in saying we were tired and ready for a break. As well as this, we were in a new and incredibly beautiful country, but we had hardly seen anything outside the conference and bus rides! Needless to say, we were all looking forward to our expedition to the Dead Sea, technically a hyper saline lake, one of the saltiest water bodies in the world and a very popular travel destination.

So our immense international group set off to a hotel on the waterfront and went for a swim. We only had an hour there, but it was definitely worth our time. A popular saying around here is that the Dead Sea is the only sea you can’t drown in. While this is false, and there are an average of 26 incidents a year requiring lifeguard intervention on the other side of the lake, one can easily see how that is a plausible saying upon stepping into the water. Think of it like a full body liquid life vest; it’s impossible to sink, and you can very easily fall forward if you swim on your belly because your legs refuse to stay up.

Floating was a very relaxing experience for everyone, except when some of us were taught a painful lesson in osmosis upon realizing we had some small cuts that really burned. The water seemed to make our skin soft as well, but nothing compared to the Dead Sea mud. On the outskirts of the beach, people were flocking to a mud hole like warthogs in a BBC documentary. I myself partook in this, submerging myself in the pit and covering myself in the soft silt, which felt very nice. The only problem was that there was very little time to shower in the rather weak beach wash, and a loooooot of mud to be rid of. But in the end, everything was washed off and the group enjoyed complimentary resort meals before heading off, very happy to have experienced such a unique place that nature offered. – Max Makarov ’15 – Round Square International Conference,King’s Academy, Jordan

Round Square: A Trip of Realizations

photo 2[2]In a week full of unimaginable highlights, our trip to Petra might have been the greatest highlight of all. After Shobak Castle, we traveled two thousand years back in time to Petra. I’m trying really hard not to feel uncharitably smug thinking of my siblings who are, at this very moment, getting ready to go to school. I am failing, because I know how lucky I am. Petra has got to be one of the places one must see before dying.

We are dazed by sleep, still dazzled by last night, when we had dinner at the Bedouin camp. The legendary Bedouin hospitality is not exaggerated. We ate traditional Bedouin fare and danced to Arab music in a setting straight out of the Aladdin of my childhood. All around us were mountains of sandy rock in which caves were nestled. A few of the caves were adorned with lights. In the light of dawn, it feels as if last night was a dream.

Today is Friday and our alarm clock is the call to prayers. The voices raised in unison to call Allah make us shiver with excitement. It is a call that has been heard for centuries, and in this particular setting it is thrilling.

Petra lies in a valley that runs from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba, and its geographical location alone sounds like an Arabian poem. Petra is a rose colored archeological city, surrounded by mountains. I say “rose coloured”, but it is not an accurate description. It is in turn orange and red and pink. It is, and really, this is not an hyperbole – spectacular. Petra was, over two thousand years ago a sprawling city with an enviable water supply system. It attracted caravans of rich merchants on camels from Egypt and Arabia. Two thousand years later, we are the one flocking to Petra, awed by the tombs and temples carved directly into the red stone. I have to say it: this is so cool.

It is impossible, when climbing 900 stairs to quiet the flutter in my stomach. This feels like the greatest of adventures. We enter a square, in a burst of sunlight. It is dazzling, both literally and figuratively. I must have seen the picture of Petra’s Treasury a thousand times before today, but it is now in front of me, for real, and the effect is surprisingly stunning. There are dozens of facades, kilometers of baths and temples and tombs, partly built, partly carved into the stone. We visit a monastery.

It is all fascinating, but it is the image of the dozens of children who hustle, desperately trying to make a few dollars from the over privileged tourists that I will take away with me to LCC. I will not forget them. This is a trip of realizations that will spur us to action. I will also take with me the image of Spencer, Maxim, Nora and Sabrina riding away on camels and donkeys. The rest of us tamely take the 900 stairs back down to reality. – David Elbaz ’15 –  Round Square International Conference, King’s Academy, Jordan