Catholic school boys get pep talk from Bill English

Bill English visits Hamilton's Saint John's College - a catholic school - to tell the students about his life and politics.
NANCY EL-GAMEL / FAIRFAX NZ

Bill English visits Hamilton's Saint John's College - a catholic school - to tell the students about his life and politics.

Former catholic school boy and deputy prime minister Bill English visited a Hamilton school on Thursday to give the boys a pep talk.

A lot of what they hear about the world, he said, is negative, so he wanted to instil some hope into the year 13 boys at St John's College.

"They hear a fair bit about how the world is complicated and lots of things are going wrong. Sometimes, they get a fair bit about that in New Zealand, too. So they hear a fair bit of bad news.

MP for Hamilton East David Bennett, sitting left, organised Bill English's visit to the school that Bennett attended as ...
NANCY EL-GAMEL / FAIRFAX NZ

MP for Hamilton East David Bennett, sitting left, organised Bill English's visit to the school that Bennett attended as a boy.

"But compared to a lot of other countries, they have a positive future. They can make positive choices."

He spoke for almost an hour to a library full of young men who were bubbling with questions for the finance minister.

"They're enquiring, they're confident to ask. At that age, I would never have asked a politician a question, certainly not in public.

"They're watching the world. There was a question about the US elections. When we were that age, we wouldn't have paid any attention to what's happening in the US election."

He told them about his upbringing in Southland, the fact he couldn't get a job with his English literature degree and how he fell into politics at 28 years old.

"I just really enjoy talking with younger people because they're forward-looking and basically optimistic.

"It's a good way to make sure you [as a government] are on track because you're trying to create a country where they feel they have a stake and they can get ahead.

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"I try and get into the government services that we pay for to get a feel for what's working well and what needs to be fixed."

He spoke about going to a catholic school and how a marist education gives the boys, in his opinion, a good set of values to start life with.

He mentioned his views on euthanasia and abortion and that sometimes political decisions aren't popular, but they're necessary.

MP for Hamilton East David Bennet set up the meet and greet. He went to St John's as a boy. 

"Kids do all sorts of amazing things these days," said English. "Kids these days have a great deal more freedom to express their preferences, skills."

The school's head boy, Liam Gilheamy-Black said he had a better understanding of how politics worked and what the deputy prime minister actually does.

"I learned there is a lot of different structures that go into politics and it's important there is a diverse group of people, that they're not all too similar."

Gilheamy-Black has no political aspirations - he wants to be a doctor - and  he's leaning towards voting Labour. But he responded positively to hearing English's life story.

"I thought he would just talk a lot of politics, so I was quite happy that he talked about his experiences growing up. 

"I think the boys typically think that what is 'right' is what the general population, what the majority chooses. But I think Bill English showed us that being an MP you can have your own voice and your own opinion and that doesn't necessarily have to be the majority's view."

 - Stuff

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