Then, in Grade 10, something remarkable happened.

One morning in assembly a tall, handsome, middle-aged man walked onto the stage. He was dressed well, but formally. His eyes gleamed with passion. His smile was so white it dazzled. Everyone in the hall was hushed. They had quickly fallen under his spell. The Principal stood next to the man, eager, burning to introduce the guest of honour.

“Learners, the man you see before you is an inspiration. If you walk away today without being fueled to do greater things in life, I will be amazed,” he said. “Now please listen to him – especially you hooligans who like making a noise at the back! Don’t embarrass me in front of our esteemed guest.” He turned to the person and addressed him. “Sir, you may now take over.”

“My name is Edward Luthuli,” the gentleman began, “and it’s a pleasure to be speaking to you – the nation’s future.” He paused. “I was once right where most of you stand. But today I’m up here as an example that anything is possible, through sheer willpower, hard work, and God’s strength.”

He paused to cough and some of the learners in the back of the hall laughed. But then he took a few steps forward, and stood tall. He commanded everyone’s attention. Suddenly silence fell on the crowd. The Principal was glaring at the rabble rousers at the back.

The gentleman began speaking again, with more intense passion and rigor in his voice than before.

“Don’t be swayed by my outward appearance, and think of me as an outsider. I’m a lawyer today, but I rose above poverty like many of you shall. I owned only one pair of shoes whilst I was still in school, and lived in squalor. But this is not just another ‘hey-look-at-me now’ story. I’ve come here to tell you it is all possible. To appeal to you to bury your noses in your books, and to dream big. To stir and encourage you, as an older uncle, to make something better out of your lives. I implore you: keep working on yourselves, listen to your community leaders, your teachers and your elders. Learn as much as possible and always ask for help. This way you will achieve your goals.”

After the captivating speech, Thato watched as the man strode out of the hall and departed in his Porsche Carrera. He must have a lot of urgent business to attend to thought Thato.

That car alone sparked Thato’s imagination and inspired him, as well as the other students. Murmurs circulated, about how elegant and sophisticated he was, how they also wanted to be successful and drive a car like his.


Tell us: What do you think of Edward Luthuli?