I was reading an article in the New York Times last week by the author Jon Meacham who wrote, “Clarity and candour are essential in times of crisis – and so is generosity of spirit”. It has certainly been my intention to communicate clearly and candidly with the Wellington Community throughout this year, not just during the last few months, but it was those final three words – generosity of spirit – which particularly struck me and, as I explained to Wellingtonians in Assembly this morning, I have been reflecting on what generosity of spirit means and also thinking about some of the remarkable examples of generosity of spirit which I have witnessed over the past few weeks and which I have detailed in some of my parental communications.

To have generosity of spirit is to act with kindness, to be open and willing to share with others without any expectation of receiving something back in return. It means to celebrate the success and efforts of others without envy or resentment. Most importantly, that word ‘generosity’ speaks to the very nature of our inter-personal relationships. Those who build their relationships with generosity of spirit at the core, commit to a life of unconditional giving and service to others, and they do so in an entirely selfless way.

As befits the school founded as the national memorial to the 1st Duke of Wellington, the concepts of serving others and service leadership remain at the heart of our educational philosophy and these principles are also central to our ongoing work within the local community as our nation and, indeed, the world continues to respond to the current public health crisis. We have all looked on with amazement at the achievements of Captain Tom Moore, who has now raised in excess of £29 million for the NHS, and how fitting that the Royal Mail is to mark his 100th birthday with a special postmark this week. Captain Moore served in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and I have no doubt that the Iron Duke would be fiercely proud of the courage and achievements of this national hero of our age.

Another initiative to which I have been delighted to see so many members of the Wellington Community give so generously is the 2.6 Challenge, a charitable initiative designed to highlight the estimated shortfall of £4 billion which the charity sector is anticipating as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim is simple: to raise £67 million by the end of April. The name is derived from yesterday’s cancelled London Marathon (26 miles, of course) which is usually a source of significant income for so many of our nation’s charities. A quick look through Wellington College’s various social media accounts reveals dozens of pupils and staff completing different challenges, from running to cycling to ‘keepy-uppy’ with a wide variety of different objects. Tomorrow I shall be completing my own 26 kilometre bike ride, albeit indoors on the Sports Department’s WattBike!

I hope that some of you may have been shown Father Adrian’s address in Chapel last week in which he talked about how, as our new College Chaplain, he wanted not only to walk alongside us as a community, but also to walk alongside us as individuals during his time leading the spiritual life here at Wellington. And, inspired by his recent enjoyment of Frozen 2 with his young daughter, Father Adrian also talked about how important it is for Wellingtonians to ‘do the next right thing’ when faced with choices in their everyday lives. I challenged the community in Assembly this morning to think hard about what the next right thing is which they can do, and then to do it. I want all pupils at the College to act with generosity of spirit – not just today, this week or for the rest of lockdown – but as part of their default setting as a Wellingtonian and as a decent human being.