14 October 2010
The 2010 Round Square annual conference is hosted by the Regent's School in Pattaya, Thailand.
Below is His Majesty King Constantine's speech, delivered earlier today.
‘We Walk Together. Three words, one concept, infinite levels of meaning. Let us lead each other to the Round Square conference in Thailand, and then take another step from there on’……as I wrote in the Conference booklet.
Here we are, nearing the end of another Round Square landmark, ready to take the next step onwards…
In bringing this particularly interesting and very successful conference to a close and having explored, with all of you, the spectrum of these three words I must confess, I feel I am just at the beginning.
Regent’s School thank you for your warm Thai welcome and for the great work you have all put into this annual meeting and your Phi Phi Island Project, with its sustained involvement of a large number of Round Square schools and students, is a shining example of the power of this movement.
I would now like to share some of the steps I have personally taken in an effort to make sense of this year’s theme.
Specifically, I will tell you about three walks: the first is one that still redefines me with every step that I take; the second walk is actually one which reminded me of the value of standing still and the third is one that continues to teach me humility.
The first is actually one of the longest walks I happened to embark on…..I will give you the abbreviated version..
It is the walk with my beloved wife, Queen Anne-Marie. I use the word ‘happen’ because in my case I feel that fate had as much to do with it as intention. And I use the adjective ‘the longest’, with great joy and relief…
To admire one’s generosity, to be inspired by their ability to empathize or to marvel at how one can apply wisdom instead of simply preach it, all qualities that my wife possesses, is fine, but it is not walking together.
Do not stroll by watching others do amazing things. In the past few days, we have all heard four exceptional keynote speakers who undoubtedly passed on their passion for their work and causes. Keep that feeling alive, go back to it every now and then, do not let it become another happy memory.
Live inspiration, share inspiration. Whoever inspires you was once inspired and kept that feeling alive until it materialized into action. As you, the students have so eloquently put it: we inspire together.
We walk with others and with the world, by necessity and by design. But look at the people you walk with by choice. Do they make you feel amazed at your self? Do you break your personal boundaries with each step? Are you more independent the closer you walk together, live together, share a life together?
Our common life, blessed as it is, has been rife with change and turmoil, which neither of us could ever have imagined when we first met.
If somehow, I had been shown the sequel, if I had been told what the next episodes were holding for us, I would still be certain that walking through it all together, we would also learn together and succeed together. As I know we have.
Let me tell you about a ‘walk together’ that can happen to people in my line of business…..
It is actually during one of our short walks together..literally..that the second example took place. As I mentioned in my introduction, I was reminded of the power of stillness.
Before I begin my narrative, imagine that you look out of the window; then look out of the same window with another person; look again with a crowd. The view will remain the same but your perception of it, the resonant feeling the same view will induce, will vary each time.
Since we exist and live together, this example is part of our daily lives. We unintentionally affect the others’ view of the world.
So, about a month ago, the Queen and I found ourselves in a less than welcoming environment. Whilst in Athens, in an effort to go from one end of Constitution Square to the other, we had to walk through what most people would consider ‘big trouble’.
A demonstration of hundreds of enraged truck drivers, angry at new austerity measures, were threatening to enter the Parliament building. Not the best place for a former Head of State to take an afternoon stroll one would think…
It turned out that it was in fact a very good place to be when the afternoon stroll became a lesson in life and a lesson I hope, for all the future leaders in this audience. I was questioning my decision as I was nearing the crowd, when I heard whispering and then a cheer. Angry faces were turning into smiles; waving hands were now shaking ours. After days of agitation the men and women stood still.
It did not matter whether I agreed with their presence in Constitution Square, nor did it matter if they agreed with mine. But as we, my wife, the protestors and I, walked together around our nation’s symbol of Democracy, talking about things other than truck licenses, I was reminded that there are times when one needs to express anger and there are moments when we all must stand still. Together.
All that we had done was to give, unintentionally, the opportunity to an angry crowd, to look ‘outside their window’ for a few moments, with different company.
My ‘line of work’ entails walking together with the largest variety of people: poor and wealthy, friends and foe, the most interesting and the truly boring..
What luck! It made me realize at the right age, that no matter how we label our co-walker… we cannot avoid the walk itself. You wake up each morning without knowing who will be joining you on your journey or what you are about to see together.
I have talked about walking with a person, (in my case my wife), walking with a crowd;
I would like to take a few minutes to talk about walking with a nation.
That is how I have always faced my duty to my country: as a young Crown Prince, I was taught to take in all kinds of experiences and I was encouraged to meet people from all backgrounds, from every corner of Greece, people of all ideological and political beliefs.
That was my parents’ mission for me – ‘service to the people’ was my true education, so much so, that I wanted future generations to gain this experience. I grasped the opportunity by helping to make Round Square a vehicle to that end.
As Head of State, I continued to explore Greece: Every single village vibrated with echoes of our great history; the eminence of my parents and forefathers had marked the land with brilliance. Around me I saw exceptional men and women who had fought, starved and lost in the name of our country, democracy and freedom.
I kept seeking these unique experiences until I felt I could truly say, ‘now, I walk with my country.. she leads me as much as I lead her’. We lead each other, we lead together.
The moment that I felt that my presence could unintentionally harm my country, because of the presence of a military government, my family and I left. The track changed but we were still walking it together.And so, we survived together.
The journey - it has been longer than a walk…resembles a sailing voyage: you may have the best intentions and skills, but if the winds are against you, it will not be an easy one. Every experience that the journey has given me, good or bad, made me humble.
Those trips in my childhood, getting to know my country, having to move away for some time and finding the right time to return; Greece still humbles me.
One of the keys to humility, as condescending as this may sound, is not to wait for it to show itself to you. We need to seek it; we must remind ourselves of it. We all need to honor something: a symbol, a God, an idea, our history or the night-sky, whatever makes one feel small…… honor it.
That is my understanding of walking together and that is why I started this speech by confessing, that I feel I am just at the beginning.
All of us, who have committed ourselves to the purpose of Round Square, are eager to make it a means for the next generation, to take as many walks together as possible.
Thank you, Regents’ School for so effectively making this a reality for yet another year, and for hosting a truly motivating and successful conference.
At this point, I would like to thank and congratulate those who were very actively involved in preparing and insuring the success of this excellent conference:
The Chairman of the Regent’s School Dr. Virachai,
The Principal Mr. Mike Walton,
The Conference Director Mr. Paul Crouch,
The Student Steering Committee,
The Staff and of course a special thanks to the Kitchen Staff that took good care of us all these days.
Go in peace. Travel home safely.
See you in Wellington.