Connor Slattery is a student of Wellington's Scots College and is an alumni of the National Student CHOGM programme. In 2014 he entered and was awarded a senior gold award in the 2014 Commonwealth Essay Competition. The overall theme of the 2014 competition was "Team Commonwealth" and what part does competition play in people's lives. This is his entry:
"THE BIG C"
by Connor Slattery
INT. AN INTERROGATION ROOM - DAY
A desk sits in the middle of a dimly lit interrogation room. A woman, her face not revealed, sits behind the desk in a large chair, wearing a business suit. She drawsa file out of a briefcase and studies it. The DOOR OPENS and MAN ushers in a YOUNG GIRL, around 16, who enters the room and waits awkwardly by the door.
Sit down, girl. Don't be shy now. We have important things to discuss.
The girl walks over to a small chair behind the desk, and sits down.
The woman looks down at the file and studies the first page carefully. She lays the file on the desk in front of her, looking up at the girl.
Jessica Wood. 16 years old. 217
Lake Park Road, Newton,
Wisconsin. Is that correct?
Jessica, do you know who I am?
(in a tense voice)
You're the C, ma'am.
Good. That's good. Do you know
why you are here?
Yes, I think I do, ma'am.
You've been ignoring some of the opportunities that I have been offering to you. You're not showing the same potential as before. This is a formal review.
C looks at the file on the desk.
My next case will be here shortly. We need to settle this soon. Let's start with your childhood. Tell me what defined your competitive drive as a young girl. Anyone you competed with?
Well, I was in nursery school when I guess it all started. My first best friend. I remember that her family always had more money than mine, and she always had better toys. . . She had a sister to play with too, while I . . . I was an only child. This girl had a bigger room than me, she had nicer clothes, and always got better gifts for her birthday. . . at least it seemed so to me.
What actions did you take to try and prevent this issue of comparing yourself to this girl all the time?
The jealousy I felt towards her made me miserable. When we played together I tried to boss her around to make up for the misery.
What were you trying to prove?
To prove that I had more power over her if nothing else.
How long did this competition go on for?
It's still going. I remember I went to the lake one summer, she went to Hawaii. I tried out for the cheerleading team when school started - she was already captain. It's more than just her . . . Every day at high school is a competition in itself. It's all about sports, cars, clothes, or boys. It's all anybody talks about . . . it consumes my daily life without me even recognising it. And college applications . . . I don't know where to begin with that . . . I feel like my whole life has been just one big competition.
The C writes information down on a piece of paper inside Jessica's file, then looks up staring straight at Jessica.
You've got it all wrong. Jessica, life isn't only about competing with others. . . I think you'd better tell me what happened on Monday after school. Talk me through what was going through your mind.
Well, I was at the post office and about to post my application to Yale . . .
What happened, Jessica?
I suddenly felt really sick, like I was about to throw up and - -
Why are you lying to me? You're only lying to yourself in the end.
I'm sorry, ma'am.
All resources are scarce, Jessica. There are those who would say that even the air is
scarce. Competition teaches kids like you how to work for results. You need to remember that next time you make a decision like you did.
The woman looks down at Jessica's file, before taking out of her briefcase a red pen. She circles something in the file.
In life there are winners and losers, Jessica, and both cases can become generational. In a free society, you are expected - and it is your responsibility - to provide for yourself. Given that resources are scarce, and given that you are free to riseor fall on your own, it is imperative that kids like you learn how to compete.
Tell me why you didn't post the application, Jessica.
I tried, ma'am. I tried so hard. I just didn't see the point. The chances are so slim. I would only be setting myself up to fail.
No, Jessica. That's not the case at all. You need to think about your future. What will the rest
of the 21st century look like if youth don't challenge themselves?
I believe that in the 21st century we need to rely more andmore on working together not against each other. In order to promote collaboration we need to work together towards a common goal.
Yes, but competition isn't always about competing with others. It's about challenging ourselves.
But the results will be far greater from a common effort than that of an individual. Ma'am, competition promotes the opposite - it promotes success at all cost and in this case at the cost of my classmates, so essentially it boils down to getting one up on your classmates or figuring something out to avoid sharing, just to get ahead. It's not good for anyone involved. My vote is for collaboration, not competition.
Often people who are working cooperatively still compete with themselves, to see how far they can push themselves in a supported environment. It is healthy to be self-competitive Jessica. It’s what drives individuals to improve for themselves, not to impress others. That’s why you, Jessica, need to post that application, to prove it to herself, not anyone else.
But I will still be competing with others . . . people who are better than me.
Again, this is where you're going wrong. In the modern age, this is where it gets confused. Peoplel ike you spend all their time comparing themselves to others, and trying to improve to be like them; instead of improving themselves simply because they want to. Take your best friend you've been telling me about, for example. You constantly compare yourself to her, and the negativity and misery that arises from this ruins competition for you. As much as it pains me to say, people often forget that competition does not always mean children and adults battling it out to see who's first or the best. You need to be aware of self-competition - one of the great motivators in this life, Jessica. If you change your attitude to challenging yourself and being better than you were yesterday, you will be able to take full advantage of the role that I play in your life. College is hard to get into and you need to compete to get there - not only with others, but with yourself. You need to send that application, Jessica. Challenge yourself to be the best you can be.
The man (assistant) walks into the interrogation room, with a file in his hand. He places the file down on the desk in front of C.
For you, ma'am.
The man leaves the room. C and Jessica stare at each other for a moment. Neither of them say a word.
So if I can't compare myself to others, then challenging myself will get me where I need to go?
Post the application. It's that or you spend your life regretting it. Failure will only be your greatest motivator to continue your search for success if you aren't accepted. You will learn more from your mistakes than your success. If you take a lesson from each failure, then you will strive to improve next time. The choice is your's, my role is only to provide you with the best opportunities for success and learning through failure in your everyday life. The door of the interrogation room opens and the same man walks in.
Ma'am, your next client is here.
Send him in.
You know what you have to do.
Jessica nods and leaves the room silently.
INT. HALLWAY OF CENTRE - SAME DAY
As Jessica exits the interrogation room and walks into the hallway, the next client, a YOUNG BOY, walks past her. The man ushers him into the room, before closing the door and escorting Jessica away. As they leave, the sign on the door is seen, reading:
COMPETITION - OPEN 24
HOURS, 7 DAYS A WEEK.
FADE TO BLACK.
Katherine Mcindoe is the 2013 Royal Commonwealth Society Essay Competition winner and one of New Zealand's representatives at 33Fifty: The Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme.
From 17-20th July this year, I was one of six young New Zealanders representing our country at ‘33 Fifty: the Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme’ in Glasgow and Edinburgh, a programme run by Common Purpose as one of the Legacy 2014 projects linked to the Commonwealth Games.
Why “33Fifty”? The conference was inspired by the fact that 33% of the world’s population lives in the Commonwealth, and 50% of those are under 25: therefore, we as Commonwealth youth make up an incredibly large and potentially influential group. With this in mind, the conference brought together 100 young people (aged 18-25) from around the Commonwealth to pool our ideas on how the youth of the Commonwealth can tackle the challenge of moving towards low-carbon economies.
Over the four days, we visited Scottish businesses working in the green sector and listened to presentations from wonderful speakers both about lowering carbon emissions and about effective leadership. By the end of the course, we had come up with projects that we can (and hopefully will) undertake as part of the collective move around the Commonwealth towards low-carbon economies.
One of my highlights was visiting the Edinburgh headquarters of Pelamis Wave Power, the world’s leading innovator in wave power technologies. With a base in Orkney, testing wave power machines in the North Sea, Pelamis is proving the extraordinary potential of wave power as a viable renewable energy source in the future, and for me symbolises the incredible innovation in green technologies that Scotland can offer to the rest of the world.
The other most valuable part of 33Fifty for me was meeting my fellow participants from around the world. Not only are they all smart, creative, friendly people, but they are already engaged in addressing the issues they are concerned about, whether that is through tertiary study, full-time work, or setting up NGOs, businesses, or community initiatives. In this environment, if you have an idea, being young is no reason to delay putting it into practice: in the climate change area (in which we simply don’t have the time to delay), I think that this attitude is vital.
I was lucky enough to stay on in Scotland, alongside 10 other participants, to represent 33Fifty at the Commonwealth Business Conference, where I was tasked with representing the group on one of the panels. As we discussed what we had learnt from the 33Fifty experience in preparation for the panel, we kept returning to two central ideas. The first is that the best and most effective leadership can only occur when a range of diverse perspectives are included: with 31 Commonwealth countries represented at 33Fifty, we were struck by the many benefits of collaborative decision-making. The second is that, with young people making up such a large proportion of the Commonwealth, our input must be taken seriously, rather than considered only after decisions are made.
It was an honour to represent New Zealand at 33Fifty, and to meet and work with some incredible young people from around the Commonwealth. I am very grateful to the New Zealand Society for their financial support, which enabled me to take part.