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I want to break free: July - the month of revolution

To explore revolutionary change and encourage students to bring about positive changes in their own lives (SEAL theme: Motivation).

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To explore revolutionary change and encourage students to bring about positive changes in their own lives (SEAL theme: Motivation).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.
  • Prepare audio clips of the American and French national anthems and have ready the means to play them during the assembly.

Assembly

Leader: July is the month for breaking free. At least it is in the USA and France.

Play audio clip of the American national anthem.

Reader 1:
The 4th July is the most important date on the calendar for US citizens. It’s known as Independence Day and commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776. The Declaration marked the end of the American Revolution and was a symbol of the independence won by the Americans from British rule. No more would they be ruled by the monarch in London.

Play audio clip of the French national anthem.

Reader 2:
The 14th July is the most important day in the calendar for the citizens of France. It’s known as Bastille Day and commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison on 14th July 1789. The Bastille was seen as the symbol of the absolute power of the monarch at that time – Louis XVI. The storming and capture of the prison is seen as the start of the French Revolution and marks the birth of the French Republic, with its three key principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Leader: Both of these days are celebrated each year in the USA and France with parades, shows, games, fireworks, bonfires, eating and drinking. They’re important for these two countries because they represent key turning points in the history of both nations: in 1776 the USA broke free from the rule of an overseas monarch and in 1789 the French people broke free from the overbearing rule of one man.

 

Leader: How do you feel about breaking free yourselves this July? Many of you have been looking forward to the end of term for some time. You’ll be able to break free from the Monday to Friday routine, the alarm clock, having to follow a timetable, the pressure of homework and exams, the restrictions of school uniform. You can assert your independence from that absolute tyrant  . . .  school! That’s worth celebrating, I’m sure you’ll agree.

It may be that this represents an opportunity for you to also break free from other aspects of your life. It’s a time to reassess the old routines, the way your time has been spent over the last 12 months. Maybe priorities have changed for you, but you’ve not had the chance to alter your lifestyle to accommodate them. Maybe it’s time for a few relationship changes. Have some relationships become unhealthy, leading you into directions you’re not entirely happy with? Might this be the time to break away from them? Are there new relationships you’ve wanted to cultivate, but haven’t had the time to? Might this be the time to do so? Can you break free?

There’s a problem with freedom, however. We can literally do anything when we’ve been set free, so freedom needs to be given some shape and purpose fairly quickly or else it has a habit of becoming pointless, without focus, overindulgent, self-centred, even boring. That’s why, in the USA, they created a Bill of Human Rights linked to the Declaration of Independence, so people had targets to work towards. That’s why, in France, they developed the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. There had to be agreement about how the new freedom was to be used.

Time for reflection

So, how are you going to use your freedom this summer? I’d like to suggest two ways in which to give it shape and purpose: make it healthy and make it stimulating. There are many ways we can create healthy routines. Maybe we could take up a new sport or commit ourselves to a fitness programme. Maybe we could give some thought to what we eat and drink. Dare I suggest that it might be the time to give up smoking? It will be even more productive, however, if we do these things with people who will encourage and support us, give positive feedback and be honest in what they say. In other words, can we nurture healthy relationships?

It’s just as important, however, that what we decide to do and the people we mix with are stimulating to us. There’s little point if we don’t actually feel the benefit. Holidays are there for us to recharge our batteries and return in September full of ambition, energy and hope. So, freedom should also be exciting and interesting. Maybe we can go to places we’ve wanted to visit, listen to music we’ve wanted to hear, read books we’ve wanted to read and maybe also we can dream a few dreams.

You’re almost free. Enjoy it. Use it. May you come back better people than before.

Prayer
Dear Lord,
Thank you for the freedom of the summer holidays.
May we shape and focus what we do and with whom we spend our time.
May we become energized and positive.
Amen.

Music

‘I want to break free’ by Queen.

Publication date: July 2013   (Vol.15 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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