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Sam Sole's Candid Acceptance Speech: A Clarion Call to the Next Generation

Published December 24, 2023
7 months ago

At the recent school ceremony where celebrated investigative journalist and amaBhungane managing partner Sam Sole was honored by his alma mater, the South African College Schools (SACS), his acceptance speech morphed into a profound and stirring challenge to the new generation. The setting was a symbolic return to home turf—a place where his formative years were spent with mixed feelings, and his journey toward impactful journalism began.

Sole's presence at the event was a testament to more than nostalgia; it reflected the transformative power of education, with particular homage to an English teacher who played a pivotal role in his early engagement with societal issues. He credits this teacher for igniting his first steps into political consciousness during apartheid—a grim historical chapter that coexisted with his school years.

Piercing through the celebrations, Sole's narrative carried a stark message: privilege is accompanied by responsibility. His words were unflinching. The comfort zone of middle-class education, reinforced by societal and economic bubbles, cannot be sustained in a world riddled with local and global challenges. It is a point that resonates powerfully, urging those currently sheltered within the corridors of privilege to grapple with the harsher realities beyond them.

In a way, Sole's life story served as a manual for the disenchanted or outliers among students. The trajectory from a self-professed 'uncool' schoolboy to a beacon in investigative journalism is inspiring; however, he attributes his successes not to inherent talent but to dogged perseverance and endurance. His self-reflection reveals an arduous process of self-education—one that threw him into realizations about the stark inequities of apartheid, power dynamics, and the true face of privilege.

Recounting his own existential crossroads after graduation, Sole underscored the significance of determination and the importance of finding a meaningful way to engage with the world's injustices. For him, journalism became the weapon to challenge the status quo, to hold power to account, and to uphold truth amidst systemic corruption and societal turmoil.

But beyond personal anecdotes, Sole's speech was an urgent call to action amid an escalating array of pandemics—those of climate change, authoritarianism, resource depletion, and social injustice. He quoted climate futurist Alex Steffen, highlighting that we are at a tipping point, one that demands immediate and collective action, even if imperfect.

The wave of challenges that the next generation faces, according to Sole, may very well dwarf any previous ones. They are vast and looming: geopolitical conflicts, the disintegration of democratic principles, and above all, the climate crisis. He painted a picture of a world on the cusp of potentially catastrophic consequences yet urged the students to start somewhere, anywhere, no matter the scale.

Overall, Sam Sole’s speech was not just an acceptance of an award; it became a manifesto for conscious, critical engagement with the world’s manifold crises. It was a compelling directive to the youth—to start asking hard questions, develop multidisciplinary skills, and strive for a rugged community resilient enough to weather the storms that lie ahead. The speech echoed long after the applause subdued, likely to reverberate in the minds of the listeners tasked with shaping the unpredictable future.

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