Lead from the heart

13 December 2012 - 02:09 By Jonathan Jansen

THANK you so much for inviting me here to be your guest speaker, it is a great honour.

Wow, I get nervous making a simple speech to my classmates back at school, so please excuse me if I seem to look like a gibbering wreck. Speaking in front of such an esteemed audience like you is something I have never done before.

When Professor Jonathan Jansen invited me to speak, I really thought there was no advice I could give any adult, let alone a whole lot of graduates. But, rather than giving you advice, I will try and explain to you what my campaign has taught me.

My "Just One Bag" project came about because of a feeling I had in my heart. When it comes to giving or helping, I believe it is "feeling" that is important; it has to come from within. We can think and devise all sorts of "nice" things to do for people, but if they don't come from the heart, I feel they are meaningless.

You will be going out into this wonderful country of ours to give of your time, help people and serve communities. I believe there is only one way for you to do this properly and that is to do it with your hearts.

You have to go out there and want to serve all people because your heart tells you to. If you have become a doctor, or any other professional for that matter, because you think you are going to become rich, drive fancy cars and live in big houses, I think you have made a mistake.

Next year I will go into Grade 7, and my school, St John's, runs a leadership programme which is based on servant leadership. After Googling "servant leadership" I was very interested in some of Robert Greenleaf's work, for it made me think about my campaign and this country. We need leaders in this country, and I am not talking about political leaders - all types of leaders. We are all leaders in some way or other, be it on the sports field, the head of a family or the captain of an industry.

But Greenleaf says: "The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve." And, as I said before - I believe it comes from the heart.

When I was watching that programme about starving children in South Africa, I felt sad. I had a feeling coming from within and I was determined to do something about it. Fortunately, with the help of many people, we have managed to feed over a million people to date. It dawned on me that maybe I am a leader. Yes, I am 12 years old, but because of that feeling of wanting to serve, and a few lifts in my mom's car, I was able to lead. We now have thousands of children who have joined the campaign and it is snowballing.

But, after reading a bit more of Greenleaf's work, I realised what I have started is just that, a start.

Greenleaf asks: "Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?"

What I need to do, is make sure my "Just One Bag" campaign continues, so those people who are being served will one day in turn serve others as well.

I am sure you have heard of the term "ubuntu". For me, serving is part of ubuntu and if we all serve, and we all have ubuntu, this country will have no rival.

So my challenge to you wonderful and talented graduates is to go out into South Africa and serve. Do it from the heart because you have a feeling inside you that makes you want to serve. Don't do it for me, don't do it for anyone else, do it for yourself because your heart tells you to.

Thank you so much and I wish you all the best for the future.

  • This is an edited version of the graduation speech delivered by Jordan van der Walt at the summer graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State on December 6. The speech will be circulated to ANC members visiting the campus for their elective conference this weekend. Jordan won the 2012 Inyathelo Award for philanthropy. His "Just One Bag" initiative has delivered more than 100 tons of maize to hungry children