National cyclist and artist Michael Phillips is questioned by a student of Holy Name Convent, Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday. Photo: Lester Forde
By Indarjit Seuraj
A powerful and inspiring speech by former national cyclist Michael Phillips brought students of the Holy Name Convent, Port-of-Spain, to their feet as he urged them to use negativity in order to grow.
It was a day filled with laughter, as Phillips entertained the all-female student body on Wednesday with a highly-interactive presentation, as part of the Guardian in Education schools tour, giving priceless advice and motivation as he recounted how he attained his success.
Your brain is like a muscle. Resistance helps build it, he said.
He was referring to the negativity and obstacles which impede in accomplishing ones dreams.
He recalled when his grandmother told him as a little boy: Apart from your constitutional rights, no one owes you anything.
Based on his grandmothers words, he said, he learned to prepare himself for any disappointment.
But each disappointment did not make me bitter, he said.
Phillips discourse to the students began with the four house flags being carried through the assembly by members of the Sixth Form.
Phillips, the public relations officer for Beacon Insurance company, told students to ignore the word difficult, if anything is to be accomplished.
Principal Ellen Leepow had earlier introduced the artist/cyclist and stated that his wife was a past pupil of the school, which made the assembly cheered heartily.
He has chosen one of ours as his wife, Leepow said.
He has a good sense of judgment, does he not? she asked, to which the assembly answered: Yes!
Phillips urged students to follow their dreams, particularly those interested in art.
The assembly watched in awe and gave hearty applause when Phillips unveiled one of his latest pieces of art, Finding Sanctuary.
The painting featured an ocelot in serenity in the forest.
He would like the art to have a greater impact on young people, which was why he chose to return to nature with his paintings, he said.
He recalled when he had just started painting and he swapped the pieces to travel abroad.
For accommodation, gas...whatever, he said.
Asked if he had to choose between cycling or art as careers, he replied: I cant choose. Ill have to flip a coin on that one.
But if I had to think about it financially, art is something I can do when Im old and earn a living, but I can cycle when Im old, to keep fit only.
He said when he was younger, he was able to balance all aspects of his lifeschool work, art and cycling.
The balance can be achieved, he advised students.
Phillips told students not to allow others to put them down.
Do not let anyone tell you because you have this or dont have this youre better or worse than anybody else.
He chided students who were intent on brand shopping in order to be somebody else.
He also advised the audience to spend their parents money wisely, as it is they who make the ultimate sacrifice.
Buy because you need a tool to do something, buy because it will be valuable in the future, but do not buy something because it will make you feel like something, he said as he encouraged students to create their own brand names.
As he ended, Leepow challenged students to take his message and act on it.
You have heard him speak and now hes throwing out the challenge to you, Leepow said.
She then led the assembly in serenading Phillips with the song This Little Light of Mine.