In Defence of 2020

Head Girl's speech for Chapel: 'A Defence of 2020 and it's Effect on Our Integrity'


'This pen. This particular one, is my favourite pen. You all know what I mean, when that one pen just fits your hands, your handwriting pace, your preferred letter size, it’s the right colour. We all have a favourite pen. I bought this pen during my first week in this school, last autumn, after realizing I didn’t bring one to school. It fitted my hand, my handwriting pace, my preferred letter size and the ink was blue. I bought it in the school shop. It was in March that the fifth one of this type ran out of ink, and I, by then stuck in Oslo, realised that I didn’t know when I could return to the school to buy a new one. This year was different. Since March, this whole year has been put on trial. 

'We were sent home whilst the world seemed to crumble around us. We, the general public, have been harsh prosecutors of this year. Never have we been more observant of what is going on, in the news, in politics, in business and in public health and there are no ends to the accusations we may hold against 2020 and what seems to have gone wrong. We condemned 2020 in March and I myself admit to having indulged in blaming, screaming and pointing fingers at 2020. For all the events I missed, for all the places that I missed, for all the people that I missed. Some felt like it was alright to give up this year in March, our year would be the next one, the better year would be the next one.

'However, the case for 2020 really isn’t over. This may not feel like the moment to encourage optimism, but as all defendants, this year deserves its defence. It has no fancy lawyer; how could anyone believe this year is defendable. Yet, I am taking this very short opportunity to defend and bring you just a few of my favourite points of this year. 

  • People have seized the opportunity to re-educate themselves and books like “White Fragility” and “How to be antiracist” have topped best-selling lists worldwide for weeks.
  • NÆSA named its Washington, D.C. headquarters after Mary W. Jackson, its first Black female engineer.
  • Crayola has finally launched a box of crayons with diverse skin colours for children to "accurately colour themselves into the world."
  • Health care workers have been celebrated internationally as heroes.
  • For the first time ever, the Oscar for best film went to an international film: "Parasite."
  • The social distancing cliché of Zooming events has transformed the tech savviness of elderly and studies believe this may help them combat loneliness also for future years to come
  • There has been an increase in sheltering and adopting stray pets for companionship
  • And the US election monumentally saw a woman, and a women of colour, enter the White House at the country’s first female Vice President, setting the stage for so many coming after her.

'The world does seem, paradoxically enough during these times, to be becoming more interconnected. There is more acceptance for diversity and more appreciation of the small things and enjoyments that are universal and bind us; movies, music, colouring and colour.

'As another point of defence; I also propose a quality, within ourselves, that I think 2020 has actually empowered. Our integrity. Integrity is never compromising your principles and actions even when meeting hardship, resistance or when it might benefit you to do so. It belongs to being comfortable with yourself and your view of the world. Where 2020 has been a tough practice of social distancing, loneliness and boredom, it has also been a practice in realizing whether when you are alone with yourself, you are in fact someone you are comfortable hanging out with.

'I read this in a book by Thomas Nagel; “You do matter from the outside (that is, what others think of you). But you don’t matter as much from the outside as you matter to yourself, from the inside.” This doesn’t give you a reason to be selfish, and staying at home, or isolating from the rest of society, doesn’t give you a reason to forget about everyone else. The statement is a reflection on the point that your integrity should be equally important to you, even when practiced from home, alone, and when the world tells you that things are crumbling and therefore you might too.

'My principles, my integrity, were both tested when it seemed acceptable to give up, to stop our hard work, because health was falling, scientists were failing, politicians were faking. But I want to defend this year. Not only have so many incredible highlights happened around the world to cheer us up, but we are still going hard, going strong, standing with an integrity that eventually will take us to new heights…. as we enter the last few weeks of this term. You should be proud of that. You should be proud that you are still investing energy and time in your future when society’s sense of confidence has disappeared.

'I got to return, after months of how’s, when’s, what ifs and what if not. I was thrilled to find the school shop still selling my favourite pen. It has come to represent learning, and creativity, finding a way for each of us to dictate our own days when school, social pressures or the government seem to dictate our life. It represents writing because we are part of writing the history that is going on right now. For people of colour, women in politics, for all forms of diversity, the celebration of health workers and appreciation for our communities. It also represents choice. You choose how to see the world and how to approach it. You can choose that this year is your time to grow; for yourself and for the people around you.'

- Speech for Chapel, by Head Girl, Lea Wessel-Aas