The Purvis Society was delighted to welcome Mr Roger Knight, currently President of the MCC and one-time Housemaster of Loveday House here at Cranleigh, to talk to the Sixth Form Scholars at their final meeting of the year. Mr Knight chose as his title ‘Choices, Values and Future Opportunities’, explaining that he had been faced with a series of extremely challenging decisions during his life and now wanted to share a few of these with us; he could talk about cricket “until the cows come home”, but he was well aware that this would please only a minority of the audience.
Starting with Mrs Thatcher, he quoted her pragmatic approach to her decisions: “Don’t ask how I feel, ask what I think.” “Thoughts lead to words; words lead to actions; actions become habits; habits form character and character determines destiny.” Expanding a little on the theme inherent in these wise words, he then suggested that one way of making a difficult decision was to list ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ and then to weigh them all up; pretty much the Thatcher approach. Quoting Roy E. Disney (“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”), Mr Knight pointed out that “the fear of regret is a powerful motivator” and that “our feelings and instincts often derail the process.” So, he suggested, you should “determine your goal, determine its value, arrange and examine the options available to reach it.” “What persuades you to make a decision?” he asked. Is it the ‘logos’, the rational appeal; the ‘pathos’, the emotional appeal or is it the ‘ethos’, the ethical appeal: all three of which, he suggested, are frequently used to persuade or influence an audience. He cited his own circumstances when, after a very short time as Headmaster of Worksop College, he was offered the chance to serve as Secretary of the MCC: clearly a very difficult decision. Another very challenging example came when he was Secretary to the MCC: “The decision was whether to evacuate the ground during an Ashes Test Match as opposed to ignoring the telephone call stating that a bomb was due to go off in forty minutes’ time. Fortunately, it was a hoax call, but the repercussions, if it had not been, do not bear thinking about, especially as I was responsible for making the decision despite the presence of two senior policemen and my security manager.”
Changing direction slightly, Mr Knight then quoted from The Revd Dr Alan Megahey’s book, A History of Cranleigh School, within which he writes, “… the permanence of Cranleigh in the future depends finally not on the status it confers, or the success, academic or otherwise, it brings, but on the permanence of the values it really believes in.” The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying “Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values” and President Jimmy Carter had a slightly different take on the same theme when he said, “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.” Developing the theme of values, Mr Knight projected a list of 52 within which he had enlarged his top four: those by which, he hoped, he had lived his life. Integrity, Respect, Service and Trust: these four, he proposed, had been pivotal to his life as a professional cricketer, a schoolmaster and a father/grandfather. “If you do what you think is right, and you think what you do is right, you are content with your values.” “Do these values,” he asked, “represent things you would support, even if your choice is not popular, and it puts you in the minority?”
Nearing the end of his presentation, Mr Knight asked the members of his young audience if they were ready for the opportunities that will face them, citing a splendid quotation from Alex Blackwell: “I would rather be called a failure than a loser. Losers give up when things become too difficult. Failures are folks who have just not found success – but will. So, call me a failure if you like, because it implies I haven’t stopped trying.”
Mr Knight’s talk was splendidly presented, peppered with cricketing anecdotes (including his reaction to the Surrey team being bowled out for 14 – “We had to laugh.”) and how he developed such a sense of team spirit that, after years of being runners-up, Surrey finally won a major championship.
The annual Black Tie Dinner followed, and, as has become traditional, diners were entertained by Mr Alan Smith (former Master of Scholars) with a witty and thought-provoking after-dinner speech.
Dr Christopher Mann